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Introduction to Coeiodanus 

BY Sidney Lee ix 

Text of the Play 1 


HERE is no external evidence 
as to the date of the composi- 
tion of Shakespeare’s tragedy of 
“ Coriolanus.” It was printed 
for the first time in the First 
Folio of 1623, and there is no 
earlier mention of the piece. 
In the First Folio the play 
holds the second place in the 
section of tragedies, following 
“Troilus and Cressida,” and 
being succeeded by “Titus 
Andronicus.” The Folio text 

is exceptionally corrupt. The “copy” was obviously 
ill-written, although from the fulness of the stage di- 
rection, it may be inferred that it was a transcript 
which belonged to the theatrical manager. Despite 
the efforts of textual critics, several passages remain 
barely intelligible. 



Internal evidence points with no uncertain finger to 
the late months of 1608 or early months of 1609 as the 
period of the play’s birth.^ The tragedy forms with 
** Julius Csesar” and “Antony and Cleopatra” a virtual 
trilogy which is based in its main features on Plutarch’s 
biographical narratives of Roman histoiy. Althou^ 
Coriolanus’ career belongs to a far earlier period, of 
histoiy than either of the two companion pieces, there 
is reason to believe that it was undertaken last. The 
irregularities of metre, the ellipses of style, closely 
associate it with “Antony and Cleopatra” and separate 
it by a wide interval from “Julius Csesar.” But alike 
in prosody and verbal construction Coriolanus seems to 
accentuate the peculiarities of ‘ ‘Antony and Cleopatra,” 
and encourage the inference that it followed rather than 
preceded that great tragedy of passion. Statistics show 

^ Ben Jonson’s “ Silent Woman,” which is known to have heexx first 
acted in lfi09, seems to echo a phrase of Shakespeare’s plaj. In 11* 
ii, 105 Cominius says of the hero’s feats in youth that “he lurch’d [i. a., de- 
prived] all swords of the garland.” The phrase has an uncommon ring 
and it would be in full accordance with Jonson’s habit to have assimilated 
it, when he penned the sentence, “Well, Dauphin, you have lurched your 
friends of the better half of the garland^* (“ Silent Woman,” V, iV, 2)27- 
228). It is difficult to take seriously the suggestion that 1612 must be the 
date of composition because in a ne’fa edition, first published in that year, 
of North’s translation of Plutarch’s “ Lives,” a passage which had pre- 
viously read “How more unfprtuncdely than all living women” was altered 
to “How more unfortunate than all living women,” in which shape the 
line figures in Shakespeare’s play (V, iii, 97). It is fatuous to deny 
Shakespeare the power of making for himself (without recourse to the 
1812 edition of North) a correction which metrical exigendes made 
almost imperative. 



tliat weak or unaccented syllables, the presence of which 
at the end of lines marks for the most part a new depart* 
me in “Antony and Cleopatra,” are perceptibly greater 
in “Coriolanus.”* A similar ratio of increase may be 
assigned to the syntactical ellipses and harsh contractions 
of language. It cannot be asserted that the dramatist’s 
thqjught flows through “ Coriolanus” with any such dis- 
tinctive acceleration of pace as positively to indicate a 
precise sequence in workmanship. Rather the flashing 
intellectual vigour gives in “ Coriolanus ” new signs of 
restraint, but the development of control may well 
mark a stage of advance in the flood of inspiration. 

The sharp contrast, too, between the subject-matter 
of “ Antony and Cleopatra,” and that of “ Coriolanus,” 
points plainly to some intervening space of time in 
the composition of the two plays, and suggests that 
“ Coriolanus” is the later of the two. The simple aus- 
terity of Coriolanus’ tragic career is the ethical antith- 
esis of the passionate subtlety of the story of Antony 
and his mistress. Turbulent as are the emotional storms 
which overwhelm Coriolanus, they break in an atmos- 
phere of sombre clarity, out of which the voluptuous fire 
may well have lately A'ed. 

The imageiy, which reflects the sterner sentiment, 
confirms the impression that the tide of emotional im- 
pulse is just on the ebb. The metaphors and similes 
of “Coriolanus” are hardly less abundant than in 
“Antony and Cleopatra” and no less vivid. But, 

^ percentage of weak and unaccented syllabiea is reekqned at 3.53 
in Antony and Cleopatra,” and at 43 in “ Coriolanus.” 



save in t&e fina/ criMs, they l&ck GlB lyHC 
colour which charactenses the former piece. Th&r 
vitality is often due to their unromantic homeliness i they 
are at times impressive from an almost prosaic direct- 
ness. Coriolanuf’ wounds are compared to “graves i’ 
the holy churchyard “ (III, iii, 51). He conquers like 
the osprey who takes the fish “by sovereignty of natuje” 
(IV, vii, 85). There is no more pity in him than “milk 
in a male tiger” (V, iv, 28). Soldiers follow him 

“ with no less confidence 
Than boys pursuing summer butterflies 
Or butchers killing flies.” (IV, vi, 94-96.) 

In his most impassioned moods the hero develops a 
noble grandeur of figurative utterance. But, in spite 
of its dignity and its magnificent range, it still savours 
for the most part of a sculpturesque, albeit colossal 
severity. He goes into solitary banishment “like to a 
lonely dragon” (IV, i, 80). His mother on her knees 
at his feet is “Olympus nodding in supplication to a 
molehill” (V, iii, 80). His emotions, strained almost 
to breaking point by Volumnia’s appeal, make it diflB- 
cult for him to believe the sight of her prostration, and 
his incredulity carries hinv involuntarily beyond the 
limits of earth to celestial altitudes: 

I “Then let the pebbles on the hungry beach 
* Fillip the stars; fiien let the mutinous winds 
Strike the proud cedars ’gainst the fiery sim.” 

(V. iii, 58-<J0.) 



feut such outbursts are rare. In his penultimate utter- 
ance he resumes the more normal and more mundane 
strain, and meets death with the glorious boast 

“That, like an eagle in a dovecote, I 
Flutter’d your Volscians in Corioli; 

Alone I did it.” (V. vi, 115-117.) 

Lyric digression is outside the scope of the play, and 
the lyric glow which fires the emotional speech of 
“ Antony and Cleopatra ” is exchanged for the chastened 
heat of classic sublimity. 


In a sense Shakespeare showed a bolder spirit of in- 
novation in dramatising Coriolanus’ history than in 
adapting to dramatic purpose the Roman themes of 
Julius Csesar and Antony and Cleopatra. Long before 
he worked on those two topics, bo^ were familiar not 
merely to the stage in England, but to the theatres of 
France and Italy. Before Shakespeare wrote “ Julius 
Csesar” and “Antony and Cleopatra” the dramatic 
literature of Europe was rich in plays on the same 
heroes and heroine. “ Coriolanus ” stands on a dif- 
ferent footing. As far as is known, only one dramatist 
in Europe anticipated Shakespeare in turning Corio- 
lanus’ fate to dramatic purposes. Shakespeare’s single 
predecessor was the Frenchman, Alexandre Hardy, 
whose tragedy of “Coriolan” was produced on the 
Parisian stage for the first time as late as 1607. 



Hftrdy was a voluminous and popular playwnght, 
who had, like Shakespeare, begun his carwr as an 
actor. Although he interpreted Senecan principles of 
dramatic art with freedom, he respected the classical 
temper and mostt)f the classical canons. In the case 
of “Coriolan ” he observed the unity of action by open- 
ing the scene with the banishment of the hero and hy 
strictly conSning the succeeding episode to the events 
issuing in his death. The monologues of Coriolanus 
and Volumnia fill most of Hardy’s pages, and the chorus 
of Roman citizens hardly relieves the monotonous effect. 
Hardy never rises to the level of tragic passion, but his 
fluent pen always had at command an ample store of 
stilted dignity. In France his experiment struck root. 
He himself declared that “few subjects will be found 
in Roman history to be worthier of the stage *’ than 
Coriolanus, The simplicity of the tragic motive with its 
filial sentiment well harmonised with French ideals of 
classical drama and with the French domestic tempera- 
ment. For more than two centuries the seed which 
Hardy had sown fructified, and no less than three 
and twenty tragedies on the subject blossomed since 
Hardy’s day in the French theatres.^ The later French 
dramatists liberally revised t^e simple plot, and greatly 
developed the female interest. Coriolanus’ wife in 

* The beat known of the French dramatic authors who followed Hardy’s 
example in writing plays on the subject of Coriolanus,” are Urbain 
Chevresu, 1638, Gaspard Abeille, 1676, Jean Fran 9 ois de la Harpe, 1784. 
See “ Alexandre Hardy et le tb^tre Fran 9 ais . . . par Eug^e Riga!,” 
Paris, 1889 (pp. 326-SSS). 



some of the Frendi tragedies acquires a prominence 
almost eqtinl to that of her husband or her moAer-in- 
law, and at times her influence is shared or disputed 
&e hero's mistress or daughter or sister. But despite 
the occasional complications of later French ingenuity, 
it is the singleness of interest attaching to Conolanus’ 
relation with his mother which chiefly sustained the 
tragic fable in the stream of French drama. 

It may be no more than a fortuitous coincidence that 
Shakespeare took up the dramatic parable just after 
its first enunciation in Paris; yet it is diflScuIt to deny 
the possibility that some mysterious affinity or influence 
drew his attention, almost contemporaneously with the 
French playwright Hardy, to a dramatic theme whose 
main characteristic was a severe classical simplicity. 
At first sight the topic seemed to offer few opportunities 
or attractions to a dramatist whose immediately pre- 
ceding and succeeding achievement evinced a predomi- 
nant sympathy with stories instinct with emotional sub- 
tlety and romantic temper. Whether or no Shakespeare 
knew aught of Hardy’s experiment, his triumphant 
treatment in the plenitude of his strength, of a statuesque 
classical episode (without substantial variation of its 
tenour) is a striking testiiqony to the versatility of his 


The story of “ Coriolanus ” belongs to a cloudy epoch 
of Roman history. The incident is to some extent a 
l^endary growth, and no archfieologist has yet identi- 



fied for certain the site of Corioli, the town in which an 
important part of the tale centres. But the main episode 
doubtless rests on secure foundations, and may be con- 
fidently asngned to the early years of the fifth century 
B. c., when the JEloman Republic was in its infancy. 
In point of historic chronology, Shakespeare’s tragedy 
is most closely linked, within the range of his work, 
to his second narrative poem of “ Lucrece,” which 
belongs to the first stage of his literary career. Corio- 
lanus in youth had taken part in that forcible ex- 
pulsion of Tarquin, the last of the Roman kings, which 
his son’s rape of Lucrece precipitated. It is said in the 
play of Coriolanus’ boyhood that “Tarquin’s self he 
met, And struck him on his knee” (II, ii, 92-93), The 
fables of Lucrece and Coriolanus have, too, the same 
literary parentage. Both were first recorded by the 
Roman historian Livy, in the first century b, c., and 
no earlier source seems known. But the parts played 
by the two tales in literature of Europe differed vastly. 
The wrong which Lucrece suffered at Tarquin’s hand 
passed into the folklore and poetry of all die modern 
western world. Coriolanus’ fate enjoyed a far more 
restricted fame. But it is worth noting that in 
Elizabethan England, Livy’s version of the two stories 
was first offered in a literal English rendering to the 
reading public in one and the same volume — the col- 
lection of tales known as Painter’s “Palace of Pleas- 
ure,” 1566. There Englishmen, who knew no language 
but their own, first learned Coriolanus’ story. Lucrece 
was already more or less naturalised among them as 



a poetic heroine of the three mediseval poets, Chaucer, 
Gower, and Lydgate, but Painter first narrated her 
fortune in plain English prose. 

Livy’s account of Coriolanus enjoyed the rare ad- 
vantage of attracting the notice of the Greek biographer, 
Plutarch, and was by him greatly amplified and dig- 
ni^ed. Wherever Plutarch’s “Lives ” penetrated, Corio- 
lanus consequently enjoyed a distinctive repute which 
his presence in Livy’s crowded annals could not offer 
him. Although there is evidence that Shakespeare was 
well acquainted with Painter’s “Palace of Pleasure,” 
there can be no doubt that the “Life of Coriolanus” in 
North’s translation of Plutarch (1579), first revealed to 
him the dramatic possibilities of the theme. To the 
translator North the dramatist owed not merely the 
details of his play but many hints for his characterisa- 
tion and phraseology. 

Plutarch’s “Life of Coriolanus” bears to Shake- 
speare’s tragedy much the same relation as Plutarch’s 
lives of Caesar and Brutus bear to the dramatist’s 
“ Julius Caesar ” or Plutarch’s “ Life of Mark Antony ” 
to his “ Antony and Cleopatra.” From its brevity and 
homogeneity, however, Plutarch’s memoir of Coriolanus 
offered easier material to the dramatist than the class- 
ical biographies with whicli he had already dealt. The 
facts were far fewer and fell within a narrower compass 
of place and time. The events in Coriolanus’ life, to 
which Plutarch confined his attention, only occupied 
some three years (493-490 b.c.), and run a simple and 
straightforward course. There was no need for Shake- 



speare to omit any large tract of his hero’s activity as 
in the cas« of the Eastern wars of Antony. Nor was 
there any inducement to expand or complicate the 
fable by drawing on complementary biographies, as in 
the case of “ JuUns Csesar.” Coriolanus is an isolated 
figure in Plutarch’s gallery, and his career claimed the 
dramatist’s undivided energy. In the result. Shaken 
speare’s story presents Plutarch’s main facts with al- 
most documentary accuracy. He amplifies some sub- 
sidiary details and omits or contracts others. He is less 
expansive than his authority in describing the causes 
and progress of the plebeians’ hostility to the patricians. 
Elsewhere he refashions a subsidiary historic person- 
ality. Volumnia, Coriolanus’ mother, is recreated by 
him on a scale outside Plutarch’s range. He gives an 
original interpretation of the character of Menenius 
Agrippa. Again Coriolanus’ fiery comment on his sen- 
tence of banishment, “You common cry of curs,” is 
practically Shakespeare’s invention. Although Plutarch 
credits the hero in the like situation with “vehemency 
of anger and desire of revenge” he represents his ut- 
terance as silenced by the pttteries of the mob. The 
personality, however, of Coriolanus, with his acts, his 
speeches, and the comments passed upon him by friends 
or fo^, embody as a rule rlutarch’s suggestion with 
an astonishing fidelity. 

Probably the number of words and phrases which 
Shakespeare transfers to the play, substantially un- 
altered, from North’s translation of Plutarch, exce^ his 
verbatim borrowings in “ Antony and Cleopatra,” and is 



undoubtedly twice as great as those in “ Julius Caesar.” 
The longest speeches in the play are the hero’s address 
to the Yolscian general, Auhdius, when he offers him 
his military services, and Volumnia’s great appeal to 
her son to rescue his fellow countrymen from the perils 
to which his desertion is exposing them; both these 
impressive deliverances transcribe with small variation 
for two-thirds of their length Plutarch’s language. 
There is magical vigour in the original interpolations. 
But the identity of phraseology is almost as striking 
as the changes or amplifications. In Plutarch, Corio- 
lanus’ first words to Aufidius in his own house run: 
“If thou knowest me not yet, Tullus, and, seeing me, 
dost not believe me to be the man that I am indeed, I 
must of necessity betray myself to be that I am.” In 
Shakespeare Coriolanus speaks on the same occasion 

“If, Tullus, 

Not yet thou knowest me, and, seeing me, dost not 
Think me for the man I am, necessity 
Commands me name myself.” (IV, v, 54-57.) 

is * 

In Plutarch the speaker continues: “I am Caius 
Martius, who hath done to thyself particularly, and to 
all the Volscians generally, great hurt and mischief, 
which I cannot deny for my surname of Coriolanus that 
I bear. For I never had other benefit nor recompense 
of the true and painful service I have done, and the 
extreme dangers I have been in, but this only surname : 
a good memory and witness of the malice and dis> 



pleasure thou shouldest bear me.” Coriolanus’ utter* 
ance concludes in the Greek biography with these 
words : “ AiN if it be so that thou dare not [accept my 
services] and that thou art weaiy to prove fortune mj 
more, then am I <tlso weary to live any longer. And it 
were no wisdom in thee, to save the life of him, who hath 
been heretofore thy mortal enemy, and whose sendee 
now can nothing help nor pleasure thee.*' 

The corresponding passages in Shakespeare run : 

My name is Caius Marcius, who hath done 
To thee particularly, and to all the Volsces, 

Great hurt and mischief ; thereto witness may 
My surname, Coriolanus : the painful service. 

The extreme dangers, and the drops of blood 
Shed for my thankless country, are requited 
But with that surname; a good memory. 

And witness of the malice and displeasure 
Which thou shouldst bear me. . . . But if so be 
Thou darest not this and that to prove more fortunes 
Thou’rt tired, then, in a word, I also am 
Longer to live most weary, and present 
My throat to thee and to thy ancient malice ; 

Which not to cut would show thee but a fool. 

Since I have ever follow’d thee with hate. 

Drawn tuns of blood out of thy country’s breast. 

And cannot live but to thy shame, unless 
It be to do thee service. (IV, v, 65-101.) 

Volumnia's speech oflFers identical illustration of 
Shakespeare's dependence, though by some subtle 
changes he invests Plutarch’s words with a dramatic 



eloquence and dignity which are only once, — and then 
by Shakespeare himself — surpassed in the range of lit- 
erature. The relation of Shakespeare’s ai^ Plutarch’s 
speeches may be fitly gauged by one example. Plutarch 
assigns to Volumnia this sfentence: 

“So though the end of war be uncertain, yet this, not- 
withstanding, is most certain that if it be thy chance to 
conquer, this benefit shalt thou reap of this thy goodly 
conquest to be chronicled the plague and destroyer of 
thy country.” 

Shakespeare transliterates with a rare dramatic effect 
(V, iii, 140-148) ; 

“Thou know’st, great son, 

The end of war ’s uncertain, but this certain, 

That if thou conquer Rome, the benefit 
Which thou shalt thereby reap is such a name 
Whose repetition will be dogg’d with curses ; 

Whose chronicle thus writ: ‘The man was noble. 

But with his last attempt he wiped it out. 

Destroy’d his country, and his name remains 
To the ensuing age abhorr’d.’ ’’ 

Like examples of Shakespeare’s method of assimi- 
lation might be quoted from Coriolanus’ heated speeches 
to the tribunes and his censures of democracy (Act 
III, Sc. I). The account* which the tribune Brutus 
gives of Coriolanus’ ancestry (II, iii, 234 aeq.) is so 
literally paraphrased from Plutarch that an obvious 
hiatus in the corrupt text of the play, which the syntax 
requires to be filled, is easily supplied from North’s 
page. (See II, iii, 240, and note.) 



It is otiose to multiply instances. But it may be 
worth while to note Shakespeare’s method of adapt- 
ing to his d]||matic purpose a slight illustrative anecdote 
of Plutarch. The only reward that Coriolanus claims 
from his fellow countrymen for his first triumph over 
the Volscians is the rescue of a humble Volscian bene- 
factor from peril. His request is couched by Plu- 
tarch in these terms: “Only this grace (he saidj I 
crave and beseech you to grant me. . . . Among the 
Volsces there is an old friend and host of mine . . . 
who . . . liveth now a poor prisoner in the hands of 
his enemies, and yet notwithstanding all this his 
misery and misfortune, it would do me great pleasure 
if I could save him from this one danger, to keep him 
from being sold as a slave.” Shakespeare’s dramatic 
instinct translated these sentences into this speech (I, 
ix, 82 aeq .) : 

I sometime lay here in Corioli 

At a poor man’s bouse ; he used me kindly : 

He cried to me; I saw him prisoner; 

But then Aufidius was within my view. 

And wrath o’erwhelm’d my pity : I request you 
To give my poor host freedom.” 

The dramatist’s indebtedness to Coriolanus’ Greek 
biographer cannot be ignored. Yet when all allow- 
ance is made for his liberal loans, he is seen to have 
transmuted almost all that he has borrowed, and to have 
breathed into the biographic narrative a dramatic spirit 
which gives it a new significance and vivacity. The 
dramatic construction of the play has defects. Some 



of Plutarch’s raw material otfers stubborn resistance to 
dramatic method. Shakespeare was either too conscien- 
tious or too careless to cut all the unmalleible elements 
adrift. The battle scenes in the earlier part of the play 
with the combatants’ hurried entries «nd exits present 
a somewhat confusing series of alarums and excur- 
sions. The central episode of the play, too, — Coiio- 
lanus’ candidature for the consulship with his per- 
sistent if reluctant solicitation of the citizens’ “voices” 
(i. e., votes) — presumes for its full effect an unusual 
familiarity with obsolete electoral customs of the 
Roman Republic. The flow of dramatic interest 
is consequently retarded. But the intense vigour 
which vivifies Shakespeare’s conception of the lead- 
ing characters quickly overcomes all obstacles. 
As soon as the reader and spectator come face to face 
with the hero and his mother, occasional faltering in 
the dramatic movement counts for little or nothing. 
The main current runs irresistibly. The utterances of 
Coriolanus and Volumnia steadily gain, moreover, in 
power and spaciousness with the progress of the 
tragedy. The swelling note sounded in Coriolanus’ 
furious imprecation on the city of his birth (with 
its magical closing cadenqe, “There is a world else- 
where”) fitly preludes the rousing eloquence of Vo- 
lumnia’s valediction and culminates in her son’s touch- 
ing epilogue of surrender and piercing death-cry. The 
unity of interest and the singleness of the dramatic 
purpose renders the tragedy nearly as complete a 
triumph of dramatic art as "Othello.” 

[ xziii ] 



The tragedy owes its greatness to the insight and 
fire which permeate the two chief characters, Corio- 
lanus and Volumnia. Of the subordinate personages 
Menenius Agrippa best rewards critical study. Aufidius, 
who fills a prominent place in the action, is a cojn- 
paratively slight sketch. More interesting are the 
tribunes and the spokesmen of the mob ; they interpret 
the dominant motives of the democratic agitation, which 
overthrows the hero. 

The keynote of Coriolanus’ character is struck by 
Plutarch: “This man also is a good proof to confirm 
some men’s opinions: That a rare and excellent wit, 
untaught, doth bring forth many good and evil things 
together; as a fat soil that lieth unmanured bringeth 
forth both herbs and weeds. For this Martius’ natu- 
ral wit and great heart did marvellously stir up his 
courage to do and attempt notable acts. But on the 
other side, for lack of education, he was so choleric 
and impatient, that he would yield to no living crea- 
ture: which made him churlish, uncivil, and alto- 
gether unfit for any man’s conversation. Yet men 
marvelling much at his constancy, that he was never 
overcome with pleasure nor money, and how he would 
endure easily all manner of pains and travails: there- 
upon they well liked and commended his stoutness 
and temperancy. But for all that they could not be 
acquainted with him, as one citizen useth to be with 
another in the city: his behaviour was so impleasant 



to them by reason of a certain insolent and stern man- 
ner he had, which, because he was too lordly, was 
disliked.” Elsewhere Plutarch calls Coriolanus “a 
stout man of nature, full of passion and choler, who 
lacked the gravity and affability amd judgment that 
is gotten with learning and reason.” It was on such 
foundations that Shakespeare built. But Shakespeare’s 
dramatic portrait is of a heroic grandeur, which is very 
dimly discernible in Plutarch’s elaborate sketch. 

Shakespeare’s Coriolanus is cast in a Titanic mould. 
His deeds “should not be uttered feebly.” All his 
characteristics are of superb dimensions. A born 
soldier, he is in mere brute strength a giant who 
can turn a man about with his finger and his thumb 
as one would set a top spinning. He has the courage of 
a lion and is as stubborn. His voice is always pitched 
in the same thunderous and masterful key. He knows 
nothing of “the soft way,” nothing of mildness. He 
is “ ill-schooled in bolted language.” It is impossible 
for him “ to practice the insinuating nod. ’ ’ His man- 
ner in peace has the austerity befitting a time of war. 
The unflinching pride, which is his ruling passion, 
is a “soaring insolence,” which defies all conditions 
of practical prudence. No turn in the wheel of for- 
tune can modify that colossal sense of the sacredness 
of caste with which his mother’s milk has infected 
him. Men engaged in trade or manual labour are 
for him an inferior race, of a closer affinity to the 
beasts of the field than to his own hereditary rank. 
They are curs, rats, hares, geese. Their “stinking 



■ ■ ' • 

breaths” and “greasy caps” render equal intercourse 
with them unthinkable. He cannot tolerate their un* 
washed hands and unbrushed teeth. He speaks of the 
people as if be were “a god to punish, not a man of 
their infirmity" (III, i, 81-82). The spirit of fra- 
ternity which graces the soldiership of Shakespeare’s 
favoured hero, Henry V, is to the haughty temper »of 
Coriolanus an undignified weakness. Scathing scorn 
for the “beastly” rabble — of the apron-men and the 
mechanics — is for him an altitude of virtue. 

Yet Coriolanus’ pride of caste and stubborn temper 
are allied to a robust and severe integrity. His mag- 
nificent egoism suggests intellectual rather than moral 
failing. His brain lacks pliancy, and cannot modu- 
late its workings. No sense of humour modifies his 
thought. Yet he has virtues of characteristic ampli- 
tude and solidity. No sensual blemish is visible in 
his sturdy nature. He is incapable of petty jealousy 
of his colleagues. He readily serves in a subordinate 
capacity on the battle-field. He repudiates with con- 
vincing emphasis any suspicion of covetousness. He 
cannot make his heart consent to take a bribe to pay 
his sword. . Praise is distasteful to him even from his 
mother. His wounds sm^^rt to hear themselves re- 
membered. He had rather venture all his limbs to 
honour than one of his ears to hear it. He loathes ex- 
aggeration of his achievements. He cannot idly sit to 
hear his nothings monstered. There is an inevitable 
aggressiveness about his protestations of modesty, but 
their sincerity is unquestionable. 

[xxvi ] 


The intense manliness of his temperament provokes 
among his associates an admiration, even an affection, 
which, within the bounds of his own class, he austerely 
reciprocates. His fellow officers reverence him as “the 
flower of warriors.” The veteran Menenius cherishes 
for him a parental affection, which excites in his heart 
a filial echo. Men of his own rank readily find digm'fied 
excuses for his exorbitant arrogance and his frank in- 
capacity for compromise : 

“His nature is too noble for the world: 

He would not flatter Neptune for his trident. 

Or Jove for ’s power to thunder. His heart ’s his mouth : 
What his breast forges, that his tongue must vent; 

And, being angry, does forget that ever 
He heard the name of death.” (Ill, i, 255-260.) 

But Coriolanus’ bearing to his friends and fellow 
officers scarcely supplies the humanising touch which is 
necessary to any genuine sympathy with his fortunes. 
The leavening current flows in its fulness from his re- 
lations with his family. His patrician pride is the fruit 
of heredity. It is his mother’s gift, and to her he is 
bound by ties of affection as great in intensity as the less 
amiable traits of his character. It is the conflict between 
his strong filial sentiment^ and his obstinate antipathy 
to the democracy which induces sympathy with his 
fate and lends his story its needful dramatic point. 
The pivot of Coriolanus’ tragedy is the psychological 
struggle between the inflexible aristocratic sentiment 
which governs his public life, and his sense of domestic 
obligation which is jeopardised by his public action. 

[ xxvii ] 



Coriolanus’ loving regard for his mother, Volumnia, is 
linked with considerate gentleness of bearing towards 
his gracious, silent wife, Virgilia, and with manly solici- 
tude for their young son. A chivalric sentiment marks, 
too, his attitude to his wife's confidante, Valeria. The 
distress which he causes his wife moves him to his sole 
outburst of lyric emotion : * 

“Best of my flesh. 

Forgive my tyranny ; but do not say. 

For that ‘Forgive our Romans.’ O, a kiss 
Long as my exile, sweet as my revenge ! 

Now, by the jealous queen of heaven, that kiss 
I carried from thee, dear, and my true lip 
Hath virgin’d it e’er since.” (V, iii, 42-48.) 

A genuine paternal tenderness inspires his brief address 
to his son whose thoughts he prays the god of soldiers 
to inform with nobleness : 

“that thou mayst prove 
To shame un vulnerable, and stick i’ the wars 
Like a great sea-mark, standing every flaw 
And saving those that eye thee ! ” (V, iii, 72-75.) 

Coriolanus’ fall comes from his misapprehension of 
the relative force of his private affections and of his 
public or political prejudices. In the crisis of his fate, 
when the two influences are in direct conflict, his polit- 
ical pride wins the first victory. It masters every opposing 
sentiment. He severs the domestic as well as the pa- 
triotic tie. He will not be a gosling and obey instinct. 
He joins the ranks of his country’s foes, and threatens 



his countrymen, including his kindred, with fire and 
sword. But the domestic sentiment, which he has sup- 
pressed, is not extinguished. At a breath it revives to 
challenge to a fresh encounter his political convictions, 
and in the end it scores a sweeping triumph. But the 
toils of fate, which Coriolanus’ stubborn and self-reliant 
egoism have already woven about him, leave him at 
the close of the spiritual conflict no genuine loophole of 
escape. His reawakened filial piety, which reunites 
him to his family and to his countrymen, is not to be 
reconciled with the political obligations in which his 
haughty spirit has involved him with his country’s 
enemies. He is murdered as a traitor by the Volscians, 
whom he had joined in order to avenge on his native 
city the outrage which her democratic leaders had done 
his patrician pride. 

Coriolanus’ mother, Volumnia, is as vivid and 
finished a picture as the hero himself. Her portrait, 
indeed, is a greater original effort, for it owes much less 
to Plutarch’s inspiration. Volumnia is a proud, high- 
souled, strong-willed, shrewd-witted matron, amply en- 
dowed with maternal feeling. From her Coriolanus 
derives alike his patrician prejudice and his military 
ambition. She has firm faith in hereditary rank and 
birth. Trade or manual labour is in her view de- 
grading. The common people are “woollen vassals, 
things created to buy and sell with groats, to show bare 
heads in congregation, to yawn, to be still and wonder 
(in presence of the upper classes).’’ When her son 
suffers sentence of banishment from plebeian lips, her 

[ xxix ] 


resentment finds characteristic expression in the im- 
precation “Now the red pestilence strike all trades in^ 
Borne And occupations perish.” Military glory colours^ 
her conception of manly virtue, and she values it highest 
in her own kindred. She inured her son, her only child, 
in boyhood to hardy soldiership. With justice she tells 
him, “ My praises made thee first a soldier ; Thy valiant- 
ness is mine ; thou suck’dst it from me.” She rejoices 
in the wounds with which in manhood he returns from 
battle. “ She (poor hen !) fond of no second brood 
cluck’d him to the wars, and safely home, loaden with 
honour.” There is no hesitation about her admiration 
of his prowess. He is to other Roman citizens “like 
the Capitol to the meanest house” in the city. Though 
Coriolanus is impatient of his mother’s spoken praises, 
he rejoices in her approval, and there is some founda- 
tion for the citizens’ taunt that he performs his military 
exploits “to please his mother.” Her courage, too, is 
no wit inferior to his. She mocks at death with as big 
a heart as he. 

But in one regard Volumma is greater than her stub- 
born heir. The keenness and pliancy of her intellect 
have no counterpart in his nature. In spite of the 
warmth of her affection, she js fully alive to his defects 
of reason, on which she comments with a mother’s 
frankness and a worldly philosopher’s penetrating irony. 
These are some of the biting rebukes she addresses to 

"You might have been enough the man you are. 

With striving less to be so.” (Ill, ii, 19-20.) 



‘‘I hm>ve a heart as little apt as yours, 

But yet a brain that leads my use of anger 
To better vantage/* (III, ii, 89-3L) 

”I would dissemble with my nature, where 
My fortunes and my friends at staktf required 
I should do so in honour/* (HI, ii, 62-^.) 


There is no narrowness, no pettiness, in Volumnia’s 
moral or mental constitution. Misfortune increases her 
moral and mental stature. There is no faint puling 
about her griefs. In anger she is Juno-like. When ad- 
versity compels her to present herself to her son in a 
foreign camp as a suppliant in behalf of the Roman 
people, her words acquire a logical cogency and rhe- 
torical splendour which entitles her eloquence, for all 
its debt to Plutarch, to rank with Mark Antony’s oration 
at Csesar’s funeral. Her tongue is innocent of the gar- 
rulity of age. She knows the season of silence no less 
than that of speech, and it is dramatically fitting that 
after the eloquent appeal to her son, whereby she saves 
Rome and with unconscious irony seals his ruin, no 
further word in the scenes that follow should escape her 

Very artistically are the other female characters of the 
tragedy, Coriolanus’ wife, Virgilia, and Virgilia’s friend, 
Valeria, presented as Volumnia’s foils. Valeria is a high- 
spirited and honourable lady of fashion, with a predilec- 
tion for frivolous pleasure, and easy gossip. Virgilia is 
a gentle wife and mother, who fully deserves Coriolanus’ 
apostrophe of. “gracious silence.’’ She speaks little, and 



het husband’s military adventures only excite her fears 
for his personal safety. She greets witii tears his return 
home in triumph, whereby she earns the scorn of her 
brave and resolute mother-in-law. The three characters 
amply testify to the dramatist’s knowledge of the 
varieties of the female temper. 

Of other subsidiary characters, Menenius Agrippa, 
Coriolanus’ old friend and counsellor, is a touching 
portrait of fidelity. He is for the most part Shakes- 
peare’s own creation. Plutarch merely reckons him 
“the most acceptable to the people’’ among “certain of 
the pleasantest old men in the senate.’’ Shakespeare 
follows Plutarch in assigning to Menenius “many good 
persuasions and gentle requests made to the people on 
the behalf of the senate,” and puts in his mouth the 
“notable tale” of the belly’s rebellion against the mem- 
bers of the human body. But Menenius disappears 
from Plutarch’s page as soon as he has drawn his moral 
from this apologue. He retires as soon as he has proved 
in parable that the senate is to the body politic what the 
belly is to the human frame. Shakespeare prolongs 
Menenius’ history to the end of the piece. Throughout 
the tragedy he is a level-headed observer of events. He 
criticises their progress with ironical detachment after 
the manner of a chorus in classical tragedy. His place 
in the dramatic scheme resembles that of Enobarbus 
in “Antony and Cleopatra,” and the turn of events 
involves him in almost as melancholy a fate. He is no 
bitter partisan, and although associated with the patri- 
cians has the reputation of loving the people. He jests 



as complacently at what he conceives to be his own 
failings as at those which he detects in others. His ironi- 
cal wit sharpens the zest of his sagacious comments 
V until the cruel catastrophe of Coriolanus’ repudiation. 
Then his spirit breaks and despair overwhelms him. 
There is no more pathetic episode in the tragedy than 
Coriolanus’ dismissal of him, practically unheard, from 
the Volscian camp. Not the newly crowned Prince 
Hal’s rejection of his old associate Falstaff inflicts a 
deeper wound on the reader’s or the spectator’s heart. 

Aufidius, the Volscian general to whom Coriolanus 
owes his death, is a less satisfactory creation. His 
character is developed by Shakespeare on lines which 
Plutarch suggested, and the mingling in him of mean- 
ness and liberality lacks complete consistency in either 
author. At the opening of the play, he figures as a 
brave soldier, “a lion” whom Coriolanus is “proud to 
hunt,” but the rivalry between the two warriors has 
generated a personal hatred which evokes a char- 
acteristic divergence of expression. It is Coriolanus’ 
highest ambition to meet and kill his hated adversary in 
a fair personal encounter. Aufidius confesses that he 
cares not by what device he overcome his enemy, pro- 
vided only that he get the better of him. 

“Mine emulation 

Hath not that honour in ’t it had ; for where 
I thought to crush him in an equal force. 

True sword to sword, I ’ll potch at him some way. 

Or wrath or craft may get him.” (I, x, 14-16.) 

[ xxxiii ] 


In the later scenes circumstances drive Coriolanus to 
ofFer his sword to his arch foe, who at first exults mag- 
nanimously in the alliance. But only momentarily does 
Aufidius’ spirit soar on noble heights. Coriolanus’ 
haughty temper oombines with his superior prowess in the 
field to re-awaken his old rival’s malignity even as they 
fight side by side. He affects sympathy with Coriolanus’ 
spiritual suffering when his mother stirs his filial love 
in the Volscian camp. But virtuous sensations in the 
Volscian general are fleeting and delusive. He is easily 
led to suspect Coriolanus’ loyalty in the negotiations 
with Rome which follow Volumnia’s petition for peace, 
and he plots Coriolanus’ death with treacherous deci- 
siveness. As soon, however, as Aufidius has wreaked 
his vengeance, his better self again gets the upper hand. 
“My rage is gone, and I am struck with sorrow,’’ he 
exclaims while giving directions that his enemy shall 
be worthily commemorated in death. The failings of 
Coriolanus’ destroyer are not welded to his virtues with 
quite sufficient closeness to render him as effective a foil 
to Coriolanus as might be wished. 

No less important to the dramatic development of the 
story are the spokesmen of the mob and their leaders, 
the tribunes Brutus and Siqfnius. These representatives 
of the popular faction, with whom Coriolanus has no 
bond of sympathy, are the primary instruments of his 
ruin, and the contrast between their natures and the 
character of the hero is drawn in high relief. The 
demagogues are corrupt and cowardly bullies, and the 
rabble whom they dupe, although it has some brighter 



s^pects, is mainly characterised by hckleness and gul- 
lible ignorance. 

The dark colours in which Shakespeare paints the 
popular faction is often held to reflect a personal pre- 
dilection for aristocratic predominance in a state or for 
feudal conditions of political society. Some critics even 
detect in his harsh presentation of the tribunes and of 
their poverty-stricken supporters not only antipathy to 
popular liberty, but a dishonouring worship of wealth. 
It is, however, very doubtful whether Shakespeare in 
his portrayal of the Roman crowd was conscious of 
any intention save that of dramatically interpreting 
the social and political environment which Plutarch 
allots to Coriolanus’ career. The Greek biographer 
presents the plebeian party in no amiable light. 
“Cruel” and “seditious” are the epithets which he ap- 
plies to the tribunes, and the people are in his pages 
contemptibly responsive to their leaders’ unblushing 
flatteries. The persistent struggle between democracy 
and oligarchy, which early Roman history illustrated, 
had no precise counterpart in Tudor England. No 
Elizabethan challenged the monarchical principle of 
government, and the monarchical sentiment permitted 
no precise local application ;of a tale of rivalry between 
the claims to political supremacy of privileged oligarchy 
and of organised democracy. The political situation 
which Plutarch described was alien to the experience 
of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. It could hardly 
present itself to them as a matter of personal concern, 
or appeal to their private prejudices. Shakespeare was 



in all probability merely moved by the artistic and 
purely objective ambition to invest unfamiliar episode 
with dramatic probability. 

Into Plutarch’s lively portraits of the tribunes Shakes* 
peare introducedr little change. They figure alike in the 
play and the Greek biography as corrupt, virulent, and 
short-sighted agitators for mob-rule. But Shakespeare 
achieved his dramatic purpose by subtly qualifying the 
character of Plutarch’s proletariat mob. He endows the 
citizens with a rough sense of humour which was wholly 
new, and he accentuates their innate respect for Cqiio- 
lanus’ valour at which Plutarch merely hints. No per- 
sonal malice nor political design need be imputed to the 
dramatist’s repeated references to the citizens’ “strong 
breaths” or “greasy caps.” Such allusions are constant 
features of EUzabetban drama. They had not the same 
argmhcance VaEi\ua\>elharv as in modern ears, and were 
more or less conventional aids to merriment in the 

If any political moral is to be drawn from the play, it 
can hardly be an unqualified condemnation of democ- 
racy. Whatever failings are assigned to the plebeians, 
it is patrician defiance of the natural instincts of patri- 
otism which brings about the catastrophe, and works 
the fatal disaster. On the wliole, Shakespeare’s detached 
but inveterate sense of justice holds the balanpe true be- 
tween the rival interests. 

Of the democratic organisation of the state he knew 
little, and he did not seriously argue in the tragedy for 
or against it. To “the yea or no of general ignorance” 

[ zsrri } 


he naturally deprecates submission. It was aft axiom 
in the political philosophy of his monarchical age that 
“gentry” and “title” as well as “wisdom” should weigh 
heaviest in the political scale. Yet he took no partisan 
view of human nature in its political relation. He recog- 
nised that “the fundamental part” of government was 
order and discipline. Authority cannot with security 
be indefinitely distributed among the “multitudinous 
tongue.” He credits Coriolanus with a penetrating 
diagnosis of the danger of establishing two powers in 
the state with overlapping functions: “how soon con- 
fusion May enter ’twixt the gap of both and take The 
one by the other”. (Ill, i, 110-112). Where one magis- 
trate disdains the other without cause, and the other 
insults the one without reason, “nothing is done to 
purpose” (III, i, 149). Shakespeare is in effect illus- 
trating that universal principle and prudent doctrine 
of “ the specialty of rule,” of the indispensability of 
“degree priority and place,” which he had already 
impressively enunciated in “ Troilus and Cressida ” 
and in “ Henry V.” Coriolanus and the tribunes all fail 
because each side challenges the elements which are 
essential to equilibrium in the body-politic. They pay 
the penalty of denying the salutaiy law of nature that 

“Government, though high and low and lower 
Put into parts, [should] keep in one consent, 

Congreeing in a full and natural close. 

Like music.” 

Shakespeare’s influence inspired some fresh dramatic 
experiments in Hngland with the story of Coriolanus, 

[ xxrvii ] 


during the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of 
the eighteenth centuries. * But the literary merit reached 
no high level, and popular interest was languidly ex- 
cited. Nahum Tate, the persevering adapter of Shakes- 
peare to the taste of the l^storation, built, according to 
his own account, on the “rock” of Shakespeare’s play a 
clumsy “superstructure,” which he entitled “The In- 
gratitude of a Commonwealth, or. The Fall of Caius 
Martius.” The piece was produced at the Theatre Royal, 
London, in 1682. The hope of the prologue, that the ven- 
ture would “turn to money what lay dead before,” was 
not fulfilled. No better fortune attended the like enter- 
prise of the critic John Dennis, whose freer recension of 
Shakespeare’s tragedy under the title of “The Invader 
of his Country, or the Fatal Resentment” was scorn- 
fully driven from the stage at Drury Lane Theatre after 
three performances in 1719. James Thomson, the poet 
of “ The Seasons,” in his latest year of life, 1748, vainly 
undertook the task of writing a new play on Plutarch’s 
memoir, and his ambition suggested to the inferior 
pen of Thomas Sheridan, Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 
father, a tame mosaic, which he fashioned out of both 

‘ No country approached France in the hospitality of the reception 
which her dramatic authors offered Coriolanus* story (see supra)* But 
after both Shakespeare and Hardy had passed away, the Spanish dram- 
atist Calderon produced a dramatic fantasia on the theme which is 
classed among his Armas de la Hermosura (“Signs of Beauty It is 
a confused adaptation of Livy's legendary annals of early Rome. Corio- 
lanus is one of Romulus’ generals, and his wife Veturia is a ravaged 
Sabine. Calderon’s play seems to stand alone in Spanish literature. 



Shakespeare and Thomson’s works. This was produced 
at Covent Garden Theatre in 1755. 

Theatrical interest in the career of “ Coriolanus, ” 
however, revived at the end of the eighteenth century. 
This revival was inaugurated by John Philip Kemble in 
1789 with an adaptation which borrowed more than was 
desirable from the desecrating efforts of Thomson and 
Sheridan. But Kemble in the part of the hero, and 
his sister Mrs. Siddons in the part of Volumnia, 
achieved memorable histrionic triumphs. Many con- 
temporary critics reckoned these impersonations of 
Kemble and Mrs. Siddons, which were frequently re- 
peated, among the most glorious episodes in their great 
careers. Subsequently Macready introduced into his 
repertory an authentic version of the tragedy, himself 
appearing with success as the hero. Phelps at a later 
date in the nineteenth century presented the tragedy 
with artistic profit, but with his effort the brief line of 
great English interpreters of Coriolanus’ role seems to 
have for the time failed. In America Edwin Booth, 
John McCullough, and Lawrence Barrett gave in the 
next generation dignified renderings of the hero’s part. 
But on the English stage the place which Kemble, Mac- 
ready, and Phelps assigned to the tragedy has not been 
sustained. Coriolanus was the last Shakespearean role 
which Sir Henry Irving essayed (1900), and the en- 
deavour proved a failure. 

Sidney Lee. 

[ xxxix ] 



Caius Mabcius, afterwards Caius Mabcito Cobiolanus. 

Titus Labtius, ) , • ^ xu xr i • 

CoMiNius 1 against the Volscians. 

Menenius Agbippa, friend to Coriolanus. 

SiciNius Velutus, ) . M , 

Jraius Bsimm. i 

Young Mabcius, son of Coriolanus. 

A Roman Herald. 

Tullus Aupidius, general of the Volscians. 

Lieutenant to Aufidius. 

Conspirators with Aufidius. 

A Citizen of Antium. 

Two Volscian Guards. 

VoLUMNU, mother to Coriolanus. 

ViBQiLiA, wife to Coriolanus. 

Valebu, friend to Virgilia. 

Gentlewoman attending on Virgilia. 

Roman and Volscian Senators, Patricians, iEdiles, Lictors, Soldiers, 
Citizens, Messengers, Servants to Aufidius, and other Attendants. 

Scene: Rome and the neighbourhood; Corioli and the neighbour- 
hood; Antium 

* The piece was first printed in the First Folio of 162 S. The First 
Act is there headed “Actus Primus. Scsena Prima,” but there is no 
other scenic subdivision. Rowe first supplied a list of the “Dramatis 
persone,” and full scenic subdivisions, with descriptions of the scene. 


Enter a company of mvtinms Citizens, with slaves, clubs, and other 


First Citizen 

any further, hear me speak. 

All. Speak, speak. 

First Cit. You are all re- 
solved rather to die than to 
famish ? 

All. Resolved, resolved. 

First Cit. First, you know 
Caius Marcius is chief enemy to 
the people. 

All. We know’t, we know’t. 
First Cit. Let us kill him, 
and we’ll have corn at our own 
price. Is ’t a verdict? lo 

All. No more talking on ’t; let it be done: away, 
away ! 

10 Is Ha verdict?] Is that our unanimous decision ? 

[ 3 ] 



Sec. Cit. One word, good citizens. 

First Cit. We are accounted poor citizens; the pa- 
tricians, good. What authority surfeits on would relieve 
us: if they would yield us but the superfluity while it 
were wholesome, we might guess they relieved us hu- 
manely ; but they think we are too dear : the leanness 
that afflicts us, the object of our misery, is as an inven- 
tory to particularize their abundance ; our sufferance is «o 
a gain to them. Let us revenge this with our pikes, ere 
we become rakes: for the gods know I speak this in 
hunger for bread, not in thirst for revenge. 

Sec. Cit. Would you proceed especially against Caius 
Marcius ? 

All. Against him first: he’s a very dog to the com- 

Sec. Cit, Consider you what services he has done for 
his country? 

First Cit. Very well ; and could be content to give so 
him good report for ’t, but that he pays himself with 
being proud. 

Sec. Cit. Nay, but speak not maliciously. 

15 good] in the mercantile sense of substantial, well to do. Cf. Merck, 
of Ven., I, iii, 12: “Antonio is a good man.” 

18 they think we are too dear] they think the expense of maintaining us is 

mote than we are worth. 

19 object] outward aspect, spectacle. 

20 particidarize] describe in detail. 

20-21 our sufferance ... to them] they gain by our suffering. The gen- 
eral sense is that our loss is their gain. 

22 we become rakes] a reference to the proverbial expression “as lean as a 
rake.” “Rake ” is naturally associated with “pikes,” which was some- 
times used for “ pitchforks ” as well as in its ordinary sense of “dagger.” 

[ 4 ] 



• Fibst Cit. I say unto you, what he hath done fa- 
mously, he did it to that end : though soft-conscienced 
men can be content to say it was for his country, he did 
it to please his mother and to be partly proud ; which 
he is, even to the altitude of his virtue. 

Sec. Cit. What he cannot help in his nature, you 
account a vice in him. You must in no way say he is 4o 

First Cit. If I must not, I need not be barren of 
accusations ; he hath faults, with surplus, to tire in re- 
petition. within.] What shouts are these ? The 

other side o’ the city is risen : why stay we prating here ? 
to the Capitol ! 

All. Come, come. 

First Cit. Soft ! who comes here ? 

Enter Menenius Ageippa 

Sec. Cit. Worthy Menenius Agrippa ; one that hath 
always loved the people. so 

First Cit. He’s one honest enough: would all the 
rest were so ! 

Men. What work ’s, my countrymen, in hand ? where 
go you 

With bats and clubs ? the matter ? speak, I pray you. 

First Cit. Our business is not unknown to the sen- 
ate ; they have had inkling, this fortnight, what we in- 

37-88 and to be partly proud . . . virtue] and in part to indulge his 
pride; he is fully as proud as he is valorous. 

55 First Cit.] This and all this citizen’s speeches to the end of the scene 
are giv^ in the Folios to the “Second Citizen,” from whom Capcll 

[ 6 ] 



tend to do, which now we ’ll show ’em in deeds. They 
say poor suitors have strong breaths : they shall know 
we have strong arms too. 

Men. Why, masters, my good friends, mine honest 
neighl^ours, «o 

Will you undo yourselves ? 

First Cit. We cannot, sir, we are undone already. 
Men. I tell you, friends, most charitable care 
Have the patricians of you. For your wants. 

Your suffering in this dearth, you may as well 

Strike at the heaven with your staves as lift them 

Against the Roman state; whose course will on 

The way it takes, cracking ten thousand curbs 

Of more strong link asunder than can ever 

Appear in your impediment. For the dearth, 70 

The gods, not the patricians, make it, and 

Your knees to them, not arms, must help. Alack, 

You are transported by calamity 
Thither where more attends you, and you slander 
The helms o’ the state, who care for you like fathers. 
When you curse them as enemies. 

First Cit. Care for us ! True, indeed ! They ne’er 
cared for us yet: suffer us to famish, and their store- 
houses crammed with grain ; make edicts for usury, to 

transferred them to the ‘‘ First Citizen/* The “ Second Citizen ” has 
previously shown himself favourable to Coriolanus (Cf. 11. 28, 33 and 
39, supra), 

75 k^lms] helmsmen, pilots. 

78-80 suffer us to famish . , . usurers] Plutarch distinguishes two separate 
popular outbreaks, one on account of the extortion of usurers, and 
the other on account of famine Shakespeare oombiiles the two. 

[ 6 ] 



support usurers ; repeal daily any wholesome act estab- 
lished against the rich, and provide more piercing 
statutes daily, to chain up and restrain the poor. If the 
wars eat us not up, they will; and there’s all the love 
they bear us. ^ ^ 

Men. Either you must 
Confess yourselves wondrous malicious. 

Or be accused of folly. I shall tell you 
A pretty tale : it may be you have heard it ; 

But, since it serves my purpose, I will venture 
To stale ’t a little more. 

First Cit. Well, I’ll hear it, sir: yet you must not 
think to fob off our disgrace with a tale: but, an ’t 
please you, deliver. 

Men. There was a time when all the body’s members 
Rebell’d against the belly ; thus accused it : 

That only like a gulf it did remain 

I’ the midst o’ the body, idle and unactive, 

Still cupboarding the viand, never bearing 

Like labour with the rest ; where the other instruments 

90 stale *t] make it common or familiar. Cf. Ant. and Cleop., II, ii, 239- 
240: ‘‘Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale Her injSnite variety 
Stale is Theobald’s emendation of the Folio reading scales which 
however might well stand. “Scale” in the sense of “scatter,” “dis- 
perse,” “spread,” is not uncommon in Elizabethan English and is 
still alive in dialect. 

92 fob off our disgrace] offer a deceitful excuse for our hardship or in- 
jury, delude us in our misery. For the alternative form “fubbed off” 
cf ^ Hen IV, U, i, 32. 

94-161 There was a time . . . must have bale] The whole of Menenius* 
story is drawn substantially from North’s rendering of Plutarch 
99 where] whereaa 

[ 7 ] 



Did see and hear, devise, instruct, walk, feel, ' loo 
And, mutually participate, did minister 
Unto the appetite and affection common 
Of the whole body. The belly answer’d — 

First Cit. Well, sir, what answer made the belly ? 
Men. Sir, I siiall tell you. With a kind of smile. 
Which ne’er came from the lungs, but even thus — 

For, look you, I may make the belly smile 

As well as speak — it tauntingly replied 

To the discontented members, the mutinous parts 

That envied his receipt; even so most fitly no 

As you malign our senators for that 

They are not such as you. 

First Cit. Your belly’s answer ? What ! 

The kingly-crowned head, the vigilant eye. 

The counsellor heart, the arm our soldier. 

Our steed the leg, the tongue our trumpeter. 

With other muniments and petty helps 
In this our fabric, if that they — 

Men. What then? 

’Fore me, this fellow speaks ! what then ? what then ? 
First Cit. Should by the cormorant belly be re- 

Who is the sink o’ the body, — 

Men. Well, what then ? 120 

105-10S a kind of mile . . . lungs] Hearty laughter was commonly sup- 
posed to come direct from the lungs. Cf . As you like U, II, vii, 30 : 

“ My lungs began to crow like chanticleer.” 

110 most fitly] exactly. 

114 counsdhr heart] The heart was reckoned the scat of the understand- 
ing. Cf line 134, infra. 

[ 8 ] 

scEsn: I 


‘First Cit. The former agents, if they did complain, 
What could the belly answer? 

Men. I will tell you; 

If you’ll bestow a small — of what you have little — 
Patience awhile, you’st hear the belly’s answer. 

First Cit. You’re long about it. 

Men. Note me this, good friend; 

Your most grave belly was deliberate. 

Not rash like his accusers, and thus answer’d : 

“True is it, my incorporate friends,” quoth he, 

“That I receive the general food at first. 

Which you do live upon ; and fit it is, no 

Because I am the store-house and the shop 
Of the whole body : but, if you do remember, 

I send it through the rivers of your blood. 

Even to the court, the heart, to the seat o’ the brain ; 
And, through the cranks and oflBces of man. 

The strongest nerves and small inferior veins 
From me receive that natural competency 
Whereby they live: and though that all at once. 

You, my good friends,” — this says the belly, mark 
me, — 

First Cit. Ay, sir; well, well. 

Men. “Though all at once cannot 

See what I do deliver out to each, i4i 

Yet I can make my audit up, that all 

184 to the teal o’ the brain] even to the royal residence of the thinking 
faculty, which, according to the old physiology, was the heart. Cf. 
line 114, supra, and note. 

185 cranks and affieei] winding passages and working-chambers. 

188 nerves] sinews, muscle. 

[ 9 ] 



From me do back receive the flour of all, 

And leave me but the bran/^ What say you to ’t? 
First Cit. It was an answer : how apply you this ? 
Men. The senators of Rome are this good belly. 

And you the mutinous members : for examine 

Their counsels and their cares, digest things rightly 

Touching the weal o’ the common, you shall find 

No public benefit which you receive 150 

But it proceeds or comes from them to you 

And no way from yourselves. What do you think, 

You, the great toe of this assembly ? 

First Cit. I the great toe ! why the great toe ? 

Men. For that, being one o’ the lowest, basest, 

Of this most wise rebellion, thou go’st foremost : 

Thou rascal, that art worst in blood to run, 

Lead’st first to win some vantage. 

But make you ready your stiff bats and clubs : 

Rome and her rats are at the point of battle ; leo 

The one side must have bale. 

Enter Caius MARcrcrs 

Hail, noble Marcius ! 

Mar. Thanks. What’s the matter, you dissentious 

148 digest] The Folios give the older form disgest. 

149 weal o’ the common] welfare of the common people. 

157 rascafj The word was specifically applied to a deer in bad condition 
and unfit for the chase. 
in blood to run] in condition for running. 

161 ham bale] suffer ruin. “Bale” had become an archaic word in 
Shakespeare’s day. 

[ 10 ] 



That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion. 

Make yourselves scabs ? 

First Cit. We have ever your good word. 

Mar. He that will give good words to thee will flatter 
Beneath abhorring. What would you .have, you curs, 
That like nor peace nor war? the one affrights you, 
The, other makes you proud. He that trusts to you. 
Where he should find you lions, finds you hares. 

Where foxes, geese: you are no surer, no, 170 

Than is the coal of fire upon the ice. 

Or hailstone in the sun. Your virtue is 

To make him worthy whose offence subdues him 

And curse that justice did it. Who deserves greatness 

Deserves your hate; and your affections are 

A sick man’s appetite, who desires most that 

Which would increase his evil. He that depends 

Upon your favours swims with fins of lead 

And hews down oaks with rushes. Hang ye ! Trust ye ? 

With every minute you do change a mind, iso 

And call him noble that was now your hate. 

Him vile that was your garland. What’s the matter. 

164 scabs] a common term of contemptuous reproach. Its quibbling use 
in association with “itch*’ is not uncommon in Shakespeare Cf. 
Miick Ado, in, iii, 0^93. 

166 Beneath abhorring] What is beneath contempt. 

172-174 Your virtue is ... did it] Your notion of virtue is to treat as 
worthy of honour him who is brought low or conquered by crime, 
and to curse that justice which paid him his deserts. 

182 your garland] your ornament, your crown Cf Ant. and Cleop. IV. 
XV, 64: “wither’d is the garland of the war.” 

[ 11 ] 


ACT 1 

That in these several places of the city 
You cry against the noble senate, who, 

Under the gods, keep you in awe, which else 
Would feed on one another ? What’s their seeking ? 

Men. For com at their own rates ; whereof, they say. 
The city is well stored. 

Mar. Hang ’em ! They say ! 

They’ll sit by the fire, and presume to know 
What’s done i’ the Capitol; who’s like to rise, i9o 

Who thrives and who declines; side factions and give 

Conjectural marriages ; making parties strong. 

And feebling such as stand not in their liking 
Below their cobbled shoes. They say there’s grain 
enough ! 

Would the nobility lay aside their ruth, 

And let me use my sword, I ’Id make a quarry 
With thousands of these quarter’d slaves, as high 
As I could pick my lance. 

Men. Nay, these are almost thoroughly persuaded ; 
For though abundantly they lack discretion, 800 

Yet are they passing cowardly. But, I beseech you. 
What says the other troop ? 

191 tide factions and give out] (who) take sides in or support factions, 
and (who) announce. 

192 making parties strong] strengthening some parties or factions. 

195 their ruth] their pitying tenderness. 

196 a quarry] a heap of deer slaughtered in the chase. 

197 quarter'd slaves] slaves cut down by the sword. Cf. Jul, C<si., Ill, i, 
268: **Their infants quarter'd with the hands of war. ’* 

198 pick] pitch. 

[ 12 ] 



’ Mar. They are dissolved : hang ’em ! 

They said they were an-hungry ; sigh’d forth proverbs. 
That hunger broke stone walls, that dogs must eat, 

That meat was made for mouths, that the gods sent not 
Com for the rich men only: with theqe shreds 
They vented their complainings ; which being answer’d, 
An 4 a petition granted them, a strange one — 

To break the heart of generosity 200 

And make bold power look pale — they threw their caps 
As they would hang them on the horns o’ the moon, 
Shouting their emulation. 

Men. What is granted them ? 

Mar. Five tribunes to defend their vulgar wisdoms. 
Of their own choice: one’s Junius Brutus, 

Sicinius Velutus, and I know not — ’Sdeath ! 

The rabble should have first unroof’d the city, 

Ere so prevail’d with me: it will in time 
Win upon power and throw forth greater themes 
For insurrection’s arguing. 

Men. This is strange. 

Mar. Go get you home, you fragments ! *20 

Enter o Messenger, 

Mess. Where’s Caius Marcius? 

Mar. Here: what’s the matter? 

200 ihue threds] these odds and ends. 

209 To break the heart of generoeity] To take the heart or life out of the 
power of nobility, to give the power of the nobles its deathblow. 

212 emulation] envy or factious rivalry. 

210 For ineurrection’t arguing] To be discussed by means of insurrection, 

[ 13 ] 



Mess. The news is, sir, the Volsces are in arms. ' 
Mab. 1 am glad on ’t: then we shall ha’ means to 

Our musty superfluity. See, our best elders. 

ErUer CoMiNitrs, Titus Labtius, and other Senators; Junius 
Brutus and Sicinius Velutus 

First Sen. Marcius, ’t is true that you have lately 
told us; 

The Volsces are in arms. 

Mar. They have a leader, 

Tullus Aufidius, that will put you to ’t. 

I sin in envying his nobility; 

And were I any thing but what I am, 

I would wish me only he. 

Com. You have fought together? aso 

Mar. Were half to half the world by the ears, and he 
Upon my party, I ’Id revolt, to make 
Only my wars with him : he is a lion 
That I am proud to hunt. 

First Sen. Then, worthy Marcius, 

Attend upon Cominius to these wars. 

Com. It is your former promise. 

Mar. Sir, it is ; 

And I am constant. Titus Lartius, thou 

S29-S24 verU Our muity mperflvxtyl work off our mouldy superfluity of 

827 put you to Y] put you on your mettle. 

838 Upon my parly] On my side. 




Shalt see me once more strike at Tullus’ face. 

What, art thou stiff ? stand’st out ? 

Tit. No, Caius Marcius; 

I’ll lean upon one crutch, and fight with t’ other, 84 o 
Ere stay behind this business. 

Men. O, true-bred ! 

First Sen. Your company to the Capitol ; where, I 

Our greatest friends attend us. 

Tit. [To Com.] Lead you on. 

[To Mar.] Follow Cominius ; we must follow you ; 

Right worthy you priority. 

Com. Noble Marcius ! 

First Sen. [To the Citizens] Hence to your homes; be 
gone ! 

MaiK Nay, let them follow: 

The Volsces have much corn; take these rats thither 
To gnaw their garners. Worshipful mutiners, 

Your valour puts well forth : pray, follow. 

[Citizens steal away. Exeunt aU but Sicinius and Brutus. 
Sic. Was ever man so proud as is this Marcius ? mo 
Bru. He has no equal. 

Sic. When we were chosen tribunes for the people, — 
Bru. Mark’d you his lip and eyes ? 

Sic. Nay, but his taunts. 

239 art thm stiff f] are your limbs too stiff to join in fight ? 

245 Noble Mardusl] Thus the Folios. Theobald substituted Noble 
Lartiusl but the change is needless. 

248-249 Worshipful mutiners . . . fortK] Honoured rebels, your valour 
looks promising. The form “mutineer” is found in Tempest, III, ii, 
84, and “mutine” in Hamlet, ii, 6. “Mutiner” is not found 
elsewhere in Shakespeare. 

[ 16 ] 


ACT 1 

Bbu. Being moved, he’ will not spare to gird the . 


Sic. Bemock the modest moon. 

Bru. The present wars devour him ! he is grown 
Too proud to be so valiant. 

Sic. Such a nature, 

Tickled with good success, disdains the shadow . 

Which he treads on at noon : but I do wonder 

His insolence can brook to be commanded s«o 

Under Cominius. 

Bru. Fame, at the which he aims. 

In whom already he’s well graced, cannot 
Better be held, nor more attain’d, than by 
A place below the first : for what miscarries 
Shall be the general’s fault, though he perform 
To the utmost of a man; and giddy censure 
Will then cry out of Marcius “O, if he 
Had borne the business ! ” 

Sic. Besides, if things go well. 

Opinion, that so sticks on Marcius, shall 
Of his demerits rob Cominius. 

Bru. Come : . *70 

Half all Cominius’ honours are to Marcius, 

254 gird\ sneer at. 

257 Too proud to he] Too proud of being. 

258 TicHed vdth good success] Plea8ed» put in a good humour by the good 
result of his activity. 

266 giddy] inexperienced, thoughtless. 

270 demerits] The general repute that Marcius so firmly enjoys shall 
rob Cominius of his due praise. ^'Demerits" is constantly used in 
the sense of ** merits.” 

[ 16 ] 



Though Marcius earn’d them not; and all his faults 
To Marcius shall be honours, though indeed 
In aught he merit not. • 

Sic. Let ’s hence, and hear 

How the dispatch is made; and in what fashion. 

More than his singularity, he goes 
Upon this present action. 

Bbu. Let ’s along. [ExnuU. 



Enter Tullus Aufidius, vnih Senators of Corioli 

First Sen. So, your opinion is, Aufidius, 

That they of Rome are enter’d in our counsels. 
And know how we proceed. 

Auf. Is it not yours ? 

What ever have been thought on in this state. 

That could be brought to' bodily act ere Rome 
Had circumvention ? ’T is not four days gone 
Since I heard thence: these are the words: I think 

276 More than his singularity^ Apart from the (haughty maimer that is) 
characteristic of his individuality. 

2 are entered in our counsels] have gained entry into or knowledge cf our 

6 Had circumvention] Had got the knowledge wherewith to circumvent 
or outwit our plans. 

* [ 17 ] 



I have the letter here; yes, here it is: 

(Readsl “They have press’d a power, but it is not known 
Whether for east or west; the dearth i$ gTe&t; J 

The people mutinous ; and it is rumour’d, 

Cominius, Mardus your old enemy, 

Who is of Rome worse hated than of you. 

And Titus Lartius, a most valiant Roman, 

These three lead on this preparation 
WTiither ’t is bent : most likely 't is for you : 

Consider of it.” 

First Sen. Our army 's in the field : 

We never yet made doubt but Rome was ready 
To answer us. 

Aup. Nor did you think it folly 
To keep your great pretences veil’d till when *o 

They needs must show themselves; which in the 

It seem’d, appear’d to Rome. By the discovery 
We shall be shorten’d in our aim, which was 
To take in many towns ere almost Rome 
Should know we were afoot. 

Sec. Sen. Noble Aufidius, 

Take your commission ; hie you to your bands : 

9 (Stage Direction) Reads] Theobald read Reading. The Folios omit 
the stage direction altogether. Shakespeare’s letters are usually in 

'pressed a power] impressed or enlisted troops by force. 

15 preparation] army ready for the field. 

20 gred pretences] important intentions. 

23 shorten'd in our aim] hindered in our project. 

24 take in] conquer, subdue: a common usage Cf. Ill, ii, 59, infra* 

[ 18 ] 

BCsidi; ni 


liCt us alone to guard Corioli : 

If they set down before ’s, for the remove 
Bring up your army; but, I think, you’ll find 
They’ve not prepared for us. 

Auf. O, doubt Mot that; 

. I speak from certainties. Nay, more, 

Some parcels of their power are forth already, 

And only hitherward. I leave your honours. 

If we and Caius Marcius chance to meet, 

’T is sworn between us, we shall ever strike 
Till one can do no more. 

All. The gods assist you ! 

Auf. And keep your honours safe ! 

First Sen. Farewell. 

Sec. Sen. Farewell. 

All. Farewell. [Exeunt. 



Enter Volumnia and Vibgilia: they sd them down on two low 

stools, and sew 

VoL. I pray you, daughter, sing, or express yourself 
in a more comfortable sort ; if my son were my husband, 
I should freelier rejoice in that absence wherein he won 
honour than in the embracements of his bed where he 
wopld show most love. When yet he was but tender- 

88-29 If they . . . your army\ If the Romans sit down before (t. be- 
siege) us, bring up the army in order to remove or dislodge them. 

SS we ahcdl ever afriifea] we shall keep on attacking one another. 

8 comfortaMe] cheerful. 

[ 19 ] 



bodied, and the only son of womb ; when youth with 

comeliness plucked all gaze his way ; when, for a day of 
kings' entreaties, a mother should not sell him an hour 
from her beholding; I, considering how honour would 
become such a person ; that it was no better than pic- 10 
ture-like to hang by the wall, if renown made it not stir, 
was pleased to let him seek danger where he was lijce to 
find fame. To a cruel war I sent him; from whence 
he returned, his brows bound with oak. I tell thee, 
daughter, I sprang not more in joy at first hearing he 
was a man-child than now in first seeing he had proved 
himself a man. 

ViR. But had he died in the business, madam : how 
then ? 

VoL. Then his good report should have been my son ; 20 
I therein would have found issue. Hear me profess 
sincerely : had I a dozen sons, each in my love alike, 
and none less dear than thine and my good Marcius, 

I had rather had eleven die nobly for their country than 
one voluptuously surfeit out of action. 

Enter a Gentlewoman 

Gent. Madam, the Lady Valeria is come to visit you. 
ViB. Beseech you, give me leave to retire myself. 

6-7 when yovth . , his way] when his youthful beauty attracted every 
one^s attention 

14 his brows bound wUh oak] a crown of oak leaves was awarded to any 
soldier who saved a companion’s life in battle Cf II, i, 118, and 
H, ii, 66, %nfra. Coriolanus, according to Plutarch, performed this 
exploit in his first campaign, and won the oak-leaf garland. 

27 retire myself] withdraw. 

[ 20 ] 


*VoL. Indeed, you shall not. 

Methinks I hear hither your husband’s drum ; 

See him pluck Aufidius down by the hair; 

As, children from a bear, the Volsces shunning him: 
Methinks I see him stamp thus, and call thus ; 
“Come on, you cowards ! you were got in fear. 
Though you were bom in Rome:” bis bloody brow 
With his mail’d hand then wiping, forth he goes. 

Like to a harvest-man that ’s task’d to mow 
Or all, or lose his hire. 

ViR. His bloody brow ! O Jupiter, no blood ! 

VoL. Away, you fool ! it more becomes a man 
Than gilt his trophy: the breasts of Hecuba, 

When she did suckle Hector, look’d not lovelier 
Than Hector’s forehead when it spit forth blood 
At Grecian sword, contemning. Tell Valeria 
We are fit to bid her welcome. [Exit Gent. 

ViR. Heavens bless my lord from fell Aufidius ! 

VoL. He’ll beat Aufidius’ head below his knee. 

And tread upon his neck. 

33 got] begotten. 

40 Than gilt his trophy] Than gold or gilding becomes the decorated monu- 
ment or memorial set up in honour of a generars victory. 

43 At Orecian sword, conterrming] Thus Collier; “contemning” being 
treated as a participle used adverbially, i, e., “contemptuously.” The 
First Folio reads At Orecian sword. Contenning, teU (as if “Contenn- 
ing” were the name of an attendant gentlewoman). The Second and 
Third Folios read substantially Contending : teJl while the Fourth Folio 
reads contending: tell. Capelins reading At Grecian swords* contend- 
ing. — Tdi makes fair sense, though Collier’s change is an improve- 
ment, and adheres more closely to the First Folio form ConUnning, 

[ 21 ] 



Enter Vai^ebia, with cm Usher and Geatlewoman 


* k 

Val. My ladies both, good day to you. / 

VoL. Sweet madam. | 

ViR. I am glad to see your ladyship. 

Val. How do you both? you are manifest house- \ 
keepers. What are you sewing here ? A fine spot, in 
good faith. How does your little son ? 

ViR. I thank your ladyship ; well, good madam. 

Voii. He had rather see the swords and hear a drum 
than look upon his schoolmaster. 

Val. O’ my word, the father’s son : I’ll swear, ’t is a 
very pretty boy. O’ my troth, I looked upon him o’ 
Wednesday half an hour together ; has such a confirmed 
countenance. I saw him run after a gilded butterfly ; eo 
and when he caught it, he let it go again ; and after it 
again; and over and over he comes, and up again; 
catched it again: or whether his fall enraged him, or 
how ’t was, he did so set his teeth, and tear it ; O, I 
warrant, how he mammocked it ! 

VoL. One on ’s father’s moods. 

Val. Indeed, la, ’t is a noble child. 

61 -^SZ manifest housekeepers] evident stay-at-homes. 

5* A fine spot] A small or delicate pattern in the embroidery. Cf . OtkeUo^ 

III, iii, 438-439: “a handkerchief Spotted with strawberries.” 

59 confirmed countenance] steady, firm look. Cf Much Ado, V, iv, 17: 
“Which I will do with confirm'd countenance," 

65 mammocked] tore in pieces. “Mammock” is often found in the sense 

of morsel or fragment. 

66 moods] fits of passion. 

[ 28 ] 

i'lscENs m 


*ViB. A crack, madam. 

Val. Come, lay aside your stitcbery ; I must have you 
play the idle huswife with me this afternoon. 70 

ViB. No, good madam; I will not out of doors. 

Val. Not out of doors ! 

VoL. She shall, she shall. 

ViR. Indeed, no, by your patience; I’ll not over the 
threshold till my lord return from the wars. 

Val. Fie, you confine yourself most unreasonably: 
come, you must go visit the good lady that lies in. 

ViK, I will wish her speedy strength, and visit her 
with my prayers; but I cannot go thither. 

VoL. Why, I pray you ? so 

ViR. ’T is not to save labour, nor that I want love. 

Val. You would be another Penelope : yet, they say, 
all the yam she spun in Ulysses’ absence did but fill 
Ithaca full of moths. Come ; I would your cambric were 
sensible as your finger, that you might leave pricking it 
for pity. Come, you shall go with us. 

ViB. No, good madam, pardon me; indeed, I will not 

Val. In tmth, la, go with me, and I’ll tell you ex- 
cellent news of your husband. 90 

ViR. O, good madam, there can be none yet. 

Val. Verily, I do not jest with you ; there came news 
from him last night. 

ViB. Indeed, madam? 

Val. In earnest, it’s true; I heard a senator speak it. 

68 A crack] A sprightly precocious lad. 

sensitive, susceptible of feeling. 



AC7 I 

Thus it is: the Volsces have an army forth; agaiiftt 
whom Cominius the general is gone, with one part of our 
Roman power: your lord and Titus Lartius are set 
down before their city Corioli ; they nothing doubt pre- 
vailing, and to make it brief wars. This is true, on 
mine honour ; and so, I pray, go with us. loi 

Vie. Give me excuse, good madam ; I will obey you 
in every thing hereafter. 

VoL. Let her alone, lady ; as she is now, she will but 
disease our better mirth. 

Val. In troth, I think she would. Fare you well, 
then. Come, good sweet lady. Prithee, Virgilia, turn 
thy solemness out o’ door, and go along with us. 

Vie. No, at a word, madam ; indeed, I must not. I 
wish you much mirth. no 

Val. Well then, farewell. [Exeunt. 


Enter, with drum and colours, Makcitjs, Tixtrs Labtiub, Captains 
and Soldiers. To them a Messenger 

Mae. Yonder comes news : a wager they have met. 
Laet. My horse to yours, no. 

99 Coriolil Pope’s correction of the Folios, which never adopt this, the 
correct classical, form. The First Folio here reads CarioleSt the 
Second, Cariolua, and the Third and Fourth, Coriolus. 

9d*100 they nothing . . . brief wars] they have no sort of doubt of their 
victory and of making the war a brief one. 

105 disease] spoil. 

109 at a word] in short, once for all. 

[* 4 ] 

wmE vr 


*Mab. , *T is done. 

Labt. Agreed. 

Mab. Say, has our general met the enemy ? 

Mess. They lie in view ; but have not spoke as yet, 
Labt. So, the good horse is mine. , 

Mae. I’ll buy him of you. 

IjAET. No, I’ll nor sell nor give him : lend you him I 

For half a hundred years. Summon the town. 

Mae. How far off lie these armies ? 

Mess. Within this mile and half. 

Mar. Then shall we hear their ’larum, and they ours. 
Now, Mars, I prithee, make us quick in work. 

That we with smoking swords may march from hence. 
To help our fielded friends ! Come, blow thy blast. 
They sound a parley. Enter two Senators with others, on the walls. 
Tullus Aufidius, is he within your walls ? 

First Sen. No, nor a man that fears you less than he. 
That’s lesser than a little. Hark, our drums 

\prum afar off. 

Are bringing forth our youth ! we’ll break our walls. 
Rather than they shall pound us up : our gates, 

Which yet seem shut, 'we have but pinn’d with rushes; 
They’ll open of themselves. Hark you, far off! 

[Alarum far off. 

4 spoke] given the signal to engage. 

our fielded friends] our friends encamped on the field of battle 
14 less than he] there is a tangle here; “less than*’ has the effect of 
“more than/' The meiosis is due to the common practice of em- 
ploying the double negative to emphasise a negative intention. 

17 pound us up] imprison us» bottle us up. 

[« 5 ] 




There is Aufidius ; list, what work he. makes so 

Amongst your cloven army. 

Mar. O, they are at it ! 

Lart. Their noise be our instruction. Ladders, ho ! 


Enter the army of the Volsces 

Mar. They fear us not, but issue forth their city. 

Now put your shields before your hearts, and fight 
With hearts more proof than shields. Advance, brave 

They do disdain us much beyond our thoughts. 

Which makes me sweat with wrath. Come on, my 
fellows : 

He that retires, I’ll take him for a Volsce, 

And he shall feel mine edge. 

Alarum, The Romans are heat hack to their trenches. Re-enter 
Mabcius, cursing 

Mar. All the contagion of the south light on you, so 
You shames of Rome ! you herd of — Boils and 

Plaster you o’er; that you may be abhorr’d 
Farther than seen, and one infect another 
Against the wind a mile ! You souls of geese, 

25 more proof] more tried, better tested, stouter. 

SO the sotUh] the south wind which was supposed to bring pestilence 
in its train. Cf. Cymb., 11, iii, 131: “The south-fog rot him.” 

31 you herd of — ] Johnson inserted the dash. Marcius* fury does not 
permit him to end the sentence coherently. 

[* 6 ] 

8CEN?: IV 


Tfiat bear the shapes of men, bow have you run 
From slaves that apes would beat ! Pluto and hell ! 
All hurt behind; backs red, and faces pale 
With flight and agued fear ! Mend, and charge home. 
Or, by the fires of heaven. I’ll leave tfie foe. 

And make my wars on you : look to ’t : come on ; 

If yttu’ll stand fast, we’ll beat them to their wives, 

As they us to our trenches followed. 

Another alarum. The Volsces fly, and Mabctcts follows them to 

the gates 

So, now the gates are ope : now prove good seconds 
’Tis for the followers fortune widens them, 

Not for the fliers: mark me, and do the like. 

[Enters the gates. 

First Sol. Fool-hardiness; not I. 

Sec. Sol. Nor I. [Mardus is shut in. 

First Sol. See, they have shut him in. 

All. To the pot, I warrant him. 

[Alarum continues. 

Re-enter Trrus Labtitjs 

Lart. What is become of Marcius ? 

All. Slain, sir, doubtless. 

38 agued Jear\ trembling fear; trembling being a main characteristic of 

an ague fit. 

Mend\ correct your errors. 

39 the /friw of he(jmn[ apparently, the stars. “Fires of hell” would seem 

to be more appropriate to the context, 

48 To the fot] To ruin; still commonly employed in the vulgarism “gone 
to pot.” 



First Sol. Following the fliers at the very heels, ^ so 
With them he enters; who, upon the sudden, 

Clapp’d to their gates : he is himself alone. 

To answer all the dty. 

Labt. , O noble fellow ! 

Who sensibly outdares his senseless sword, 

And, when it bows, stands up ! Thou art .left, 
Marcius : 

A carbuncle entire, as big as thou art. 

Were not so rich a jewel. Thou wast a soldier 
Even to Cato’s wish, not fierce and terrible 
Only in strokes; but, with thy grim looks and 
The thunder-like percussion of thy sounds, eo 

Thou madest thine enemies shake, as if the world 
Were feverous and did tremble. 

54 sensibly] consciously, with full consciousness of his peril. 

57-58 Thou wast a soldier . . . Cato*8 wish] Theobald’s emendation of 
the unintelligible reading Calues (for Cato's) of the First Folio, and 
Calves of the Second, Third, and Fourth Folios. Marcus Porcius 
Cato, the elder, called “the censor,” the great Roman soldier and 
moralist, who distinguished himself in the second Punic war, lived 
some two and a half centuries after Coriolanus (234-149 b. c.)- 
But the anachronistic reference to him in the text here may well be 
due to Shakespeare’s hasty misreading of Plutarch, who wrote of 
Coriolanus that he “ was even such another as Cato would have a 
soldier and a captain to be.” This personal comment of the Greek 
biographer Shakespeare converts into an admiring contemporary 
judgment on Coriolanus. 

81*82 asif . . . tremble] Cf. 5fac6.,II, iii, 58-59; **some say, the eaitii 
Was feverous and did shake** 




Re-erUer Maecius, hUeding^ assaulted by the enemy 

Fikst Sol. Look, sir. 

Lart. O, ’t is Marcius ! 

Let fetch him off, or make remain alike. 

[They fight, and all enter the city. 


Enter certain Romans, ^vith spoils 

First Rom. This will I carry to Rome. 

Sec. Rom. And I this. 

Third Rom. A murrain on 't ! I took this for silver. 

[Alarum continues still afar off. 

Enter Marcius and Titus Lartius with a trumpet 

Mar. See here these movers that do prize their hours 
At a crack'd drachma ! Cushions, leaden spoons, 

Irons of a doit, doublets that hangmen would 

63 Let's Jetch . . . alike\ Let us rescue him, or make our stay here with 

3 (Stage Direction) a trumpet] a trumpeter. 

4 movers] probably “stragglers,” “loafers.” In Plutarch Coriolanus com- 

plains at this point of the battle that his men “run straggling here and 

hours] time. Thus the Folios. Rowe needlessly substituted honours. 

5 drachma] the Greek coin, which would be unfamiliar at Rome. But 

Plutarch invariably reckons money in Greek currency. 

6 Irons o/ a doU] Iron implements worth a doit, i. e., the smallest copper 


[ 89 ] 



Bury with those that wore them, these base slaves, 

Ere yet the fight be done, pack up : down with them ! 
And hark, what noise the general makes ! To him ! 
There is the man of my soul’s hate, Aufidius, lo 

Piercing our Romans : then, valiant Titus, take 
Convenient numbers to make good the city; 

Whilst I, with those that have the spirit, will haste. 

To help Cominius. 

Lart. Worthy sir. thou bleed’st; 

Thy exercise hath been too violent 
For a second course of fight. 

Mar. Sir, praise me not; 

My work hath yet not warm’d me : fare you well : 

The blood I drop is rather physical 
Than dangerous to me: to Aufidius thus 
I will appear, and fight. 

Lart. Now the fair goddess. Fortune, 20 

Fall deep in love with thee ; and her great charms 
Misguide thy opposers’ swords ! Bold gentleman. 
Prosperity be t% page ! 

Mar. Thy friend no less 

Than those she placeth highest ! So farewell. 

Lart. Thou worthiest Marcius ! [Exit Marcius. 

Go sound thy trumpet in the market-place ; 

Call thither all the officers o’ the town. 

Where they shall know our mind. Away ! [Exeunt. 

16 nourse of figh£\ bout; “course” was technically used of a bout in bear- 
baiting. Of. Lear^ III, rii, 53: “1 am tied to the stake, and I must 
stand the course,** 

18 physical] wholesome, medicinal. 

be thy page] attend thee, follow thee, as a page boy. 





Enter Cominius, as it were in retire, with Soldiers 

Com. Breathe you, my friends : well fought ; we are 
, come oflF 

Like Romans, neither foolish in our stands. 

Nor cowardly in retire: believe me, sirs. 

We shall be charged again. Whiles we have struck, 

By interims and conveying gusts we have heard 
The charges of our friends. Ye Roman gods. 

Lead their successes as we wish our own. 

That both our powers, with smiling fronts encountering. 
May give you thankful sacrifice ! 

Enter a Messenger 

Thy news? 

Mess. The citizens of Corioli have issued, lo 

And given to Lartius and to Marcius battle: 

I saw our party to their trenches driven. 

And then I came away. 

Com. Though thou speak’st truth, 

Methinks thou speak’st not well. How long is’t since? 

1-3 we are come off , reUre] we have broken off the engagement like 
Romans, neither foplishly making hopeless resistance nor beating a 
retreat in cowardly wise. 

6 By interims and conveying gusts] At intervals and by gusts of wind bring- 
ing the noise. 

6 Ve] Hanmer^s correction of the Folio The. 

10 issued] issued forth in a sortie. 

[ 31 ] 



Mess. Above an hour, my lord. w 

Com. ’T is not a mile ; briefly we heard their drums : 
How couldst thou in a mile confound an hour. 

And bring thy news so late ? 

Mess. Spies of the Volsces 

Held me in chase, that I was forced to wheel 
Three or four miles about; else had I, sir, , 80 

Half an hour since brought my report. 

Enter Marciub 

Com. Who’s yonder. 

That does appear as he were flay’d ? O gods ! 

He has the stamp of Marcius; and I have 
Before-time seen him thus. 

Mar. Come I too late? 

Com. The shepherd knows not thunder from a tabor 
More than I know the sound of Marcius’ tongue 
From every meaner man. 

Mar. Come I too late? 

Com. Ay, if you come not in the blood of others. 

But mantled in your own. 

Mar. O, let me clip ye 

In arms as sound as when I woo’d; in heart 8o 

As merry as when our nuptial day was done. 

And tapers burn’d to bedward ! 

Com. Flower of warriors. 

How is’t with Titus Lartius? 

16 briefly] a short time ago. 

17 confound] waste or spend. Cf. 1 Hen. IV, I, Hi, 100: “He did eon- 

found the best part of an hour.” 

25 tabor] kettledrum. 




Mar. As with a man busied about decrees: 
Condemning some to death, and some to exile; 
Ransoming him or pitying, threatening the other; 
Holding Corioli in the name of Rome, 

Even like a fawning greyhound in the leash. 

To let him slip at will. 

Com. Where is that slave 

Which told me they had beat you to your trenches ? 4o 
Where is he? call him hither. 

Mar. Let him alone; 

He did inform the truth : but for our gentlemen, 

The common file — a plague ! tribunes for them ! — 

The mouse ne’er shunn’d the cat as they did budge 
From rascals worse than they. 

Com. But how prevail’d you ? 

Mar. Will the time serve to tell ? I do not think. 
Where is the enemy ? are you lords o’ the field ? 

If not, why cease you till you are so ? 

Com. Marcius, 

We have at disadvantage fought, and did 
Retire to win our purpose. so 

Mar. How lies their battle P know you on which side 
They have placed their men of trust ? 

Com. As I guess, Marcius, 

Their bands i’ the vaward are the Antiates, 

86 Ramoming him or pitying] Taking ransom of one or setting him free 
out of pity. 

43 The common fUe] The rank and file. 

44 budge] move away, retreat. 

51 hatUe] army arrayed for battle. 

53 the Antiates] Pope’s correction of the Folio reading the Antients, 

3 [88] 



Of their best trust; o’er them Aufidius, 

Their very heart of hope. 

Mab. I do beseech you, 

By all the battles wherein we have fought, 

By the blood we have shed together, by the vows 
We have made to endure friends, that you directly 
Set me against Aufidius and his Antiates; • 

And that you not delay the present, but, eo 

Filling the air with swords advanced and darts. 

We prove this very hour. 

Com. Though I could wish 

You were conducted to a gentle bath, 

And balms applied to you, yet dare I never 
Deny your aslang : take your choice of those 
That best can aid your action. 

Mar. Those are they 

That most are willing. If any such be here — 

As it were sin to doubt — that love this painting 
Wherein you see me smear’d; if any fear 
Lesser his person than an ill report; 70 

If any think brave death outweighs bad life. 

Plutarch's words render the change irrefutable: “The bandes which 
were in the mward [i. e., the vanguard] of their battell were those of the 
AvJtiaies whom they esteemed to be the warlikest men,” etc. See also 
line 59, infra. 

61 advanced] upraised. 

69-70 if any fear Lesser . . , report] if any man cherish less fear on 
account of his personal safety than on account of a bad reputation, if 
any man set his character above his safety. “Lesser,” wWch is read 
by the Third and Fourth Folios, is not uncommonly used for “less.” 
The First and Second Folios read Lessen, which makes no sense, 




AnH that his country ’s dearer than himself ; 

Let him alone, or so many so minded, 

Wave thus, to express his disposition. 

And follow Marcius. 

[They all ahoid, and wave theix awards ; take him 
up in their arms, and cast up their caps. 

O, me alone ! make you a sword of me ? 

If these shows be not outward, which of you 

But is four Volsces ? none of you but is 

Able to bear against the great Aufidius 

A shield as hard as his. A certain number, so 

Though thanks to all, must I select from all : the rest 

Shall bear the business in some other fight. 

As cause will be obey’d. Please you to march; 

And four shall quickly draw out my command, 

Which men are best inclined. 

Com. March on, my fellows : 

Make good this ostentation, and you shall 
Divide in all with us. [Exeunt. 

76 0, fne atone! , » , me^] Thus substantially the Folios, though Capell 
first inserted the note of interrogation at the end of the line. Mar- 
cius is rebuking the soldiers for taking him up all alone in their 
arms when he had just bidden them wave or brandish their swords. 
He reproaches his men with making a sword of him. 

83 ^4^ cause will be obeyed] As occasion shall require. 

84-85 four . . . inclined] four ofl&cers shall quickly select for my com- 
mand men who seem best fitted for the enterprise. 

86 ostentation] show of courage. Ostentation** has no ironical shade of 
meaning here. 

[ 85 ] 




Trrtrs LABTros, having set a guard upon Corioli, going with drum 
and trumpet toward Cominixts and Caius Mabcius, erders with 
a Lieutenant,.o<Aer Soldiers, and a Scout 

Lart. So, let the ports be guarded : keep your duties. 
As I have set them down. If I do send, dispatch 
Those centuries to our aid; the rest will serve 
For a short holding: if we lose the field. 

We cannot keep the town. 

Lieu. Fear not our care, sir. 

Lart. Hence, and shut your gates upon’s. 

Our guider, come; to the Roman camp conduct us. 



Alarum as in battle. Enter, from opposite sides, Mabcitts and 


Mar. I’ll fight with none but thee ; for I do hate thee 
Worse than a promise-breaker. 

Auf. We hate alike: 

Not Afric owns a serpent I abhor 

More than thy fame and envy. Fix thy foot. 

Scene vii, 1 ports] gates ; so V, vi, 6, infra. 

3 centuries] companies of a hundred men each. 

ScBKE viii, 4 thy fame and envy] thy envied fame ; probably a bendiadys. 
But Theobald inserted a comma after fame, making and envy an 
elliptical phrase for “and [I also] envy [thy fame]/’ a clause balancing 
“I abhor” in line 3. 

[ 36 ] 



'Mar. Let the first budger die the other’s slave. 

And the gods doom him after ! 

Avf. If I By, Marcius, 

Holloa me like a hare. 

Mar. Within these three hours, Tullus, 

Alone I fought in your Corioli walls, 

And^ made what work I pleased : ’t is not my blood 
Wherein thou seest me mask’d; for thy revenge lo 

Wrench up thy power to the highest. 

Auf. Wert thou the Hector 

That was the whip of your bragg’d progeny. 

Thou shouldst not ’scape me here. 

[They fight, and certain Volsces come in the aid of Aufidius. 

Marcius fights till they be driven in breathless. 
Officious, and not valiant, you have shamed me 
In your condemned seconds. [Exeunt, 


Flourish. Alarum. A retreat is sounded. Enter , from one side, Co- 
MiNius with the Romans ; from the other side, Mabcius, with his 
arm in a scarf 

Com. If I should tell thee o’er this thy day’s work. 
Thou ’It not believe thy deeds: but I’ll report it, 

6 doom him after] condemn him afterwards. 

11 Wrench up] Screw up. Cf. Macb., I, vii, 60- “But screw your courage 
to the sticking-place.” 

the whip . . . progeny] the scourging champion of your boasted race. 
The Romans claimed descent from the Trojans. Hector was the 
most valiant of the Trojan chiefs. 

14-15 you have shamed . . . seconds] you have shamed me by coming to 
my aid as damnable seconds. 

[ 87 ] 



Where senators shall mingle tears with smiles; 

Where great patricians shall attend, and shrug, 
r the end admire ; where ladies shall be frighted. 

And, gladly quaked, hear more; where the dull 

That, with the fusty plebeians, hate thine honours. 
Shall say against their hearts “ We thank the gods 
Our Rome hath such a soldier.” 

Yet earnest thou to a morsel of this feast, 

Having fully dined before. 

Enter Tn’trs Labtius, with his power, from the pursuit 

Lart. O general. 

Here is the steed, we the caparison: 

Hadst thou beheld — 

Mar. Pray now, no more: my mother. 

Who has a charter to extol her blood, 

When she does praise me grieves me. I have done 
As you have done; that’s what I can: induced 
As you have been ; that ’s for my country : 

6 gladly quaked] rejoicing in their trembling fears. 

7 plebeians] usually as here accented by Shakespeare on the first syllable. 

8 against their hearts] unwillingly, in spite of themselves. 

10-11 Yet earnest thou . . . bejore] This exploit of yours was but a mor- 
sel of this feast of war, seeing that you had had already a full meal 
of fighting at Corioli. 

12 Here is the steed , . . caparisori] Here is the man who performed the 
action. We were mere passive ornament of the show. 

14 a charter . . . blood] a special right or privilege to praise her son. 

[ 38 ] 




that has but effected his good will 
Hath overtaken mine act. 

Com. You shall not be 

The grave of your deserving; Rome must know 20 
The value of her own : ’t were a concealment 
Worse than a theft, no less than a traducement. 

To hide your doings ; and to silence that, 

Whicb, to the spire and top of praises vouch'd. 

Would seem but modest : therefore, I beseech you — 

In sign of what you are, not to reward 

What you have done — before our army hear me. 

Mab. I have some wounds upon me, and they 

To hear themselves remember’d. 

Com. Should they not. 

Well might they fester ’gainst ingratitude, so 

And tent themselves with death. Of all the horses. 
Whereof we have ta’en good, and good store, of all 
The treasure in this field achieved and city. 

We render you the tenth ; to be ta’en forth, 

18-19 He that . . . ad] He that has merely put into effect his good 
purpose has outdone my own deeds. 

20 The grave of] That which buries, keeps out of sight. 

22 a traducement] an act of slander. 

23-25 to silence but modest] to pass over in silence that which, even 
when praised to the highest pitch, would still suffer from the modesty 
of the encomium ; no praise could do full justice to your valour. 

29 Should they not] sc. be remembered. 

31 tent themselves with death] find cure in death. “To tent” means liter- 
ally “to probe with a surgical instrument,” and hence “to treat 
surgically,” “ to dress,” “ to doctor.” 

82 goodj and good store] a good store of excellent qualities. 

[ 39 ] 



Before the common distribution, at 
Your only choice. 

Mar. I thank you, general ; 

But cannot make my heart consent to take 
A bribe to pay my sword : I do refuse it, 

And stand upon my common part with those 
That have beheld the doing. ^ 40 

[A hng flourish. They all cry ‘‘Marcius ! Marcius 

cast up their caps and lances: Cominius 
and Lartius stand bare. 

Mar. May these same instruments, which you 

Never sound more ! when drums and trumpets shall 
I’ the field prove flatterers, let courts and cities be 
Made all of false-faced soothing ! 

When steel grows soft as the parasite’s silk, 

Let him be made a coverture for the wars ! 

No more, I say ! For that I have not wash’d 

40 (Stage Direction) 6are] bareheaded. 

41-46 May these same instruments . . . coverture for the wars] Coriolanus 
is deprecating the profanation of the warlike drums and trumpets by 
making them sound accompaniments to speeches of flattery and com- 
pliment If these instruments of war take to playing the part of 
flatterers in the field of battle, we may very well expect courts and 
cities to be altogether given over to insincere and delusive flattery. 
When steel grows soft as the silk worn by the parasitic courtier, then 
his thin and flexible garment may serve for the uniform of war. The 
antecedent of “him” in line 46 seems to be “the parasite’s silk,” 
and the masculine gender is accounted for by the association of “para- 
site.” Coverture is Steevens’ substitution for the Folio reading over- 
turSf which might possibly mean the “prelude” or “preparation,” 
and hence “protective equipment.” But that sense is manifestly 

[ 40 ] 



Ilily nose that bled, or foil’d some debile wretch, 

Which without note here’s many else have done, 

You shout me forth 50 

In acclamations hyperbolical ; 

As if I loved my little should be dietfd 
In praises sauced with lies. 

Com. Too modest are you ; 

More cruel to your good report than grateful 
To us that give you truly ; by your patience, 

If ’gainst yourself you be incensed, we’ll put you. 

Like one that means his proper harm, in manacles, 

Then reason safely with you. Therefore, be it 

As to us, to all the world, that Caius Marcius 
Wears this war’s garland; in token of the which, 60 
My noble steed, known to the camp, I give him. 

With all his trim belonging; and from this time. 

For what he did before Corioli, call him. 

With all the applause and clamour of the host, 

Caius Marcius Coriolanus. Bear 
The addition nobly ever ! 

[f'hu'wh. Trumpets sound, and drums. 
All. Caius Marcius Coriolanus ! 

Cor. I will go wash ; 

And when my face is fair, you shall perceive 
Whether I blush, or no : howbeit, I thank you : 70 

48 or foil’d some debile wretch] or because I have vanquished some feeble 

50 You shout me forth] You attend me with shouts. 

57 his proper harm] his own harm, harm to his own person. 

[ 41 ] 



I mean to stride your steed; and at all times 
To undercrest your good addition 
To the fairness of my power. 

Com. So, to our tent; 

Where, ere we dq repose us, we will write 
To Rome of our success. You, Titus Lartius, 
Must to Corioli back: send us to Rome , 

The best, with whom we may articulate 
For their own good and ours. 

Lart. I shall, my lord. 

Cor. The gods begin to mock me. I, that now 
Refused most princely gifts, am bound to beg 
Of my lord general. 

Com, TakeH ;’t is yours. What is *t? 

Coe. I sometime lay here in Corioli 
At a poor man’s house ; he used me kindly : 

He cried to me; I saw him prisoner; 

But then Aufidius was within my view, 

And wrath o’erwhelm’d my pity : I request you 
To give my poor host freedom. 

Com. O, well bagg’d ! 

Were he the butcher of my son, he should 
Be free as is the wind. Deliver him, Titus. 

Lart. Marcius, his namej’ 

72-73 To undercrest . . . power] To wear or sustain as a crest or badge 
of merit the honourable title you have bestowed on me, to the best of 
my ability. 

77 The best . . . aHirndaU] The best men of Corioli, with whom we may 
negotiate articles of peace. 

82-84 I sometime . . . prisoner] This incident is drawn almost verbatim 
from Plutarch. (See Introduction.) 

[ 48 ] 




Cor. ' By Jupiter, forgot: so 

I am weary ; yea, my memory is tired. 

Have we no wine here ? 

Com. Go we to our tent: 

The blood upon your visage dries ; ’t is time 
It should be look’d to : come. [Exeunt. 


A flourish. Comets. Enter Ttjllus Axjfidius, bloody, vnth two or 

three Soldiers 

Auf. The town is ta’en ! 

First Sol. ’T will be deliver’d back on good condition. 
Auf. Condition! 

I would I were a Roman; for I cannot. 

Being a Volsce, be that I am. Condition ! 

What good condition can a treaty find 

I’ the part that is at mercy ? Five times, Marcius, 

1 have fought with thee; so often hast thou beat me; 
And wouldst do so, I think, should we encounter 

As often as we eat. By the elements, lo 

If e’er again I meet him beard to beard. 

He’s mine, or I am his: mine emulation 

2 on good condition] on favourable terms. 

5 be that I am] be all that I have a mind to be ; or, do that which I feel 
impelled to do. 

12 mine emtdation] my envy or rivalry. Cf. I, viii, 4, supra, where Aufi- 
dius says he abhors Coriolanus' “fame and envy.” 



ACT 1 

Hath not that honour in’t it had; for where 
I thought to crush him in an equal force, 

True sword to sword, I’ll potch at him some way, 

Or wrath or craft may get him. 

First Sol. , He ’s the devil. 

Auf. Bolder, though not so subtle. My valour’s 

With only suffering stain by him ; for him 
Shall fly out of itself : nor sleep nor sanctuary. 

Being naked, sick, nor fane nor Capitol, 

The prayers of priests nor times of sacrifice, 
Embarquements all of fury, shall lift up 
Their rotten privilege and custom ’gainst 
My hate to Marcius : where I find him, were it 
At home, upon my brother’s guard, even there. 
Against the hospitable canon, would I 
Wash my fierce hand in ’s heart. Go you to the city ; 
Learn how ’t is held, and what they are that must 
Be hostages for Rome. 

13 wkere] whereas. 

15 potch] thrust, push violently. 

17-19 My valour’s poisoned , . . oj itself] The general sense is that Aufi- 
dius* degradation at Coriolanus* hands has the effect of converting 
Aufidius into a cowardly assassin. His valour, he says, is poboned 
by merely suffering eclipse at his rivals hands, and in order to injure 
his rival, hb valour will take leave of its honourable quality. 

20 Being naked, sick] Did I find Coriolanus naked and ill. 

22 EmharqueTnerds aU of fury] Embargoes on or impediments to pas- 
sionate act. 

25 upon my brother’s guarl] under my brother's protection. 

26 the hospitable canon] the law of hospitality. 

[ 44 ] 




t'lEST Sol. Will not you go ? 

Aup. I am attended at the cypress grove: I pray 
you — 

’T is south the city mills — bring me word thither 
How the world goes, that to the pace of it 
I may spur on my journey. 

FipsT Sol. I shall, sir. [Exeunt. 

50 attended] waited for. Cf. II, ii, 158, infra. 

51 the city mills] Shakespeare was fond of inventing such local minutiae. 

Cf. Rom. arid Jul., I, i, 119-120, where he specifies “the grove of syca- 
more That westward rooteth from the city’s side.” The dramatist 
may have had in mind the four com mills on the south side of the 
Thames, near the Globe Theatre, which the corporation of London 
erected in 1588. 


[ 45 ] 



Enter Menenujs, with the two Tribunes 0/ the people, Sicinius and 
Menenius Brutus 

we shall have news to-night, 
Bru. Good or bad? 

Men. Not according to the 
prayer of the people, for they love 
not Marcius. 

Sic. Nature teaches beasts to 
know their friends. 

Men. Pray you, who does the 
wolf love? 

Sic. The lamb. 

Men. Ay, to devour him ; as 
the hungry plebeians would the 
noble Marcius. 

Bru. He ’s a lamb indeed, that baes like a bear. 10 
Men. He ’s a bear indeed, that lives like a lamb. You 
two are old men : tell me one thing that I shall ask you. 

6 who does the wolf hvef] The suggestion is that there are beasts like mobs 
who love nobody. 

[ 46 ] 

6C£N£ I 


Both. Well, sir. 

Men. In what enormity is Marcius poor in, that you 
two have* not in abundance ? 

Bru. He’s poor in no one fault, but stored with all. 

Sic. Especially in pride. 

Bru. And topping all others in boasting. 

Men. This is strange now : do you two know how you 
are censured here in the city, I mean of us o’ the right- 20 
hand file ? do you ? 

Both. Why, how are we censured ? 

Men. Because you talk of pride now, — will you not 
be angry? 

Both. Well, well, sir, well. 

Men. Why, ’t is no great matter ; for a very little thief 
of occasion will rob you of a great deal of patience: 
give your dispositions the reins, and be angry at your 
pleasures ; at the least, if you take it as a pleasure to 
you in being so. You blame Marcius for being proud ? so 

Bru. We do it not alone, sir. 

Men. I know you can do very little alone ; for your 
helps are many, or else your actions would grow won- 
drous single : your abilities are too infant-like for doing 
much alone. You talk of pride: O that you could turn 

14 /n whcd enormity . . . in] In what fault. The redundant duplication 
of the preposition is not uncommon Cf Rom and Jul , II, Pro/., 3. 
“That fair for which love groaned /or.” 

19-21 kow you are censured . . . jilef] what opinion is formed of you 
by us of the superior classes? Cf. I, vi, 43, supra: “The common 
/i/e,” i. e., the rank and file, and Mach., Ill, i, 94: “the valued file** 
(i. e., the better classes). 

34 single] a quibble on the two senses of the word; “one” and “weak” 

[ 47 ] 



your eyes toward the napes of your necks, and maie but 
an interior survey of your good selves I O that you could ! 
Both. What then, sir? 

Men. Why, then you should discover a brace of un- 
meriting, proud,* violent, testy magistrates, alias fools, as 40 
any in Rome. 

Sic. Menenius, you are known well enough too. 

Men. I am known to be a humorous patrician, and 
one that loves a cup of hot wine with not a drop of allay- 
ing Tiber in ’t ; said to be something imperfect in favour- 
ing the first complaint, hasty and tinder-like upon too 
trivial motion ; one that converses more with the buttock 
of the night than with the forehead of the morning: 
what I think I utter, and spend my malice in my breath. 

or “feeble.” Cf. ^ Hen. IV, I, ii, 173: “your chin double, your 
wit single'* 

86 the nappes of your necks] an allusion to the vulgar notion that men bore 
behind them a bag in which they stowed their own faults, keeping 
in front of them a second bag for their neighbours’ shortcomings. 

43 huniorous] capricious, whimsical. 

44- 45 aUaying] mitigating or diluting. Cf. Lovelace’s well-known song 

“To Althaea from prison” (11. 9-10): “When flowing cups run 
swiftly round With no allaying Thames.” For “ allay ” see V, iii, 
85, infra 

45- 46 something imperfect . . . first complaint] showing some defect of 

rashness in taking the part of the first grumbler without waiting to 
hear another side. For first complaint Collier suggested thirst eonu 

47 motion] provocation. 

47-48 one that converses . . . morning] one who stays up late rather than 
rises early. Cf. L. L. L., V, i, 76-77 : “the posteriors of this day which 
the rude multitude call the afternoon.” 

49 in my hreatK] in speech. 

[ 48 ] 



Meeting two such wealsmen as you are, — I cannot call so 
you Lycurguses — if the drink you give me touch my 
palate adversely, I make a crooked face at it. I can’t say 
your worships have delivered the matter well, when I 
find the ass in compound with the major part of your 
syllables ; and though I must be content to bear with 
those* that say you are reverend grave men, yet they lie 
deadly that tell you you have good faces. If you see this 
in the map of my microcosm, follows it that I am known 

50 wealsmen] statesmen, men of the state or commonwealth. 

51 Lycurguses] Lycurgus was the famous lawgiver of Sparta, whose life 

was included by Plutarch in his collection of biographies. 

52 can't] Theobald’s correction of the Folio reading can. 

53-55 / find the ass . . • syllables] Menenius’ meaning is that he finds in 
almost everything the tribunes have uttered proofs that they are asses. 
**The ass in compound ” (i. e , the suffix or affix -as in composi- 
tion) is a quibbling parody of the terminology of the grammar-book. 
“Compound** is often employed in the grammatical sense of “ com- 
pound word.** Cf. Sonnet Ixxvi, 4, compounds strange.*’ The 
prominence given in Elizabethan school-books to rules affecting the 
uses of the syllable as *’ (both in Latin and English) favoured 
the childish pun of “ as” and “ass.” See King Leir (old play, 1605) 
lines 2360-2371, where the innOcent expression for example ” is 
misunderstood as an insulting cry of “ass.” For similar jests on the 
Latin grammar-book phrase “ as in present!*’ (i. e , the termination 
-as in the present tense) see Nashe’s Strange Newes, 1592 (Works, 
ed. McKerrow, vol I, p 282), and Marston*s What you will (Works, 
ed. Bullen, vol. II, p. 360). 

58 the map of my microcosTri] the survey of my personality. The phrase 
reflects the language of mystic philosophers who habitually describe 
man as “ a little world,” an epitome of the universe. Cf. Lear, HI, i, 

10: “his little world of man,” and Jvl. C(f«.,II, i, 67-68, “the state 
of man Like to a little kingdom.” 

[ 49 ] 




well enough too ? what harm can your bisson conspec- 
tuities glean out of this character, if I be known well 
enough too? " eo 

Bbu. Come, sir, come, we know you well enough. 

Men. You know neither me, yourselves, nor any 
thing. You are ambitious for poor knaves’ caps and legs : 
you wear out a good wholesome forenoon in hearing a 
cause between an orange-wife and a fosset-seller, and 
then rejourn the controversy of three-pence to a second 
day of audience. When you are hearing a matter be- 
tween party and party, if you chance to be pinched with 
the colic, you make faces like mummers; set up the 
bloody flag against all patience ; and, in roaring for a 7o 
chamber-pot, dismiss the controversy bleeding, the 

59-60 bisson cons^e€iuiiies'\ purblind visions. Bisson is Theobald’s correc- 
tion of the unintelligible Folio reading beesome “Conspectuities” 
seems to be coined by Menenius, like “empiricutic,” line 110, ^V?/ra, 
and “fidiused,” line 124. 

63 You are ambitious , . . legs] You want the obeisances of poor fel- 
lows. “To make a leg” meant “to make a bow.” 

64-67 you wear out . . . audience] Shakespeare is in error in connect- 
ing the tribunes of the people with any judicial functions. The 
police magistrates were the praetors The tribunes only exercised 
powers of protest or veto in regard to laws and regulations promul- 
gated by the superior authorities. 

65 fosset-seller] seller of spigots, or pegs, which formed part of the taps of 
beer barrels. 

69 mummers] masquers. 

69-70 setup . patieme] declare downright war with patience, conduct 
yourselves with the utmost impatience. Cf. Hen F, I, ii, 101; “un- 
wind your bloody flag** 

71 bleeding] raw, unsettled. 

[ 60 ] 



more entangled by your hearing: all the peace you 
make in their cause is, calling both the parties knaves. 
You are a pair of strange ones. 

Beu. Come, come, you are well understood to be a 
perfecter giber for the table than a necessary bencher in 
the Capitol. 

M|:n. Our very priests must become mockers, if they 
shall encounter such ridiculous subjects as you are. 
When you speak best unto the purpose, it is not worth so 
the wagging of your beards; and your beards deserve 
not so honourable a grave as to stuff a botcher’s cushion, 
or to be entombed in an ass’s pack-saddle. Yet you 
must be saying, Marcius is proud; who, in a cheap 
estimation, is worth all your predecessors since Deuca- 
lion; though peradventure some of the best of ’em were 
hereditary hangmen. God-den to your worships : more 
of your conversation would infect my brain, being the 
herdsmen of the beastly plebeians ; I will be bold to take 
my leave of you. [BrtUus and Sicimus go aside. 

^ Enter Volttmnia, Vikgilia, and Valeria 

How now, my as fair as noble ladies, — and the moon, 90 
were she earthly, no nobler — whither do you follow 
your eyes so fast? 

76-77 a necessary bencher in the CapUc^ a competent magistrate. 

81 the wagging of your heards\ the opening of your mouths. 

82 a batcher's cmhum] the pillow which was employed by a jobbing tailor 

when repairing clothes. Cf. Lyly’s Midas, V, ii, 170-171 ; “a dozen 
of beards, to stuffe two dozen of cushions ” 

85-86 Deu4xdion\ The Noah of the Deluge in classical mythology. Cf. 

Ovid’s Metam., i, 313 seq. 

87 God-den] good-evening. 

[ 61 ] 



VoL. Honourable Menenius, my boy Marcius Ap- 
proaches; for the love of Juno, let’s go. 

Men. Ha ! Marcius coming home ? 

VoL. Ay, worthy Menenius; and with most prosper- 
ous approbation. 

Men. Take my cap, Jupiter, and I thank thee. Hoo ! 
Marcius coming home ? 

"VlR 1 

Val I 

VoL. Look, here’s a letter from him: the state hath 
another, his wife another; and, I think, there’s one at 
home for you. 

Men. I will make my very house reel to-night: a 
letter for me? 

ViR. Yes, certain, there ’s a letter for you ; I saw ’t. 

Men. a letter for me ! it gives me an estate of seven 
years’ health; in which time I will make a lip at the 
physician: the most sovereign prescription in Galen is 
but empiricutic, and, to this preservative, of no better 
report than a horse-drench. Is he not wounded ? he was 
wont to come home wounded. 112 

ViR. O, no, no, no. 

VoL. O, he is wounded ; I thank the gods for ’t. 

108 make a lip] make a grimace. 

109 Galeii] the great Greek physician who lived in the second century of 
the Christian era, some six hundred years after the dale of the present 

110 empiricutic] quack medicine The word is Menenius* coinage from 
“empiric,” cf lines 59-60, supra, and note. 

to this] compared to this 

[ 52 ] 



•Men. So do I too, if it be not too much : brings a’ 
victory in his pocket ? the wounds become him . 

Von. On’s brows: Menenius, he comes the third 
time home with the oaken garland. 

Men. Has he disciplined Aufidius soundly ? 

VoL. Titus Lartius writes, they fought together, but 
Aufidius got off. 121 

Men. And ’t was time for him too, I ’ll warrant him 
that: an he had stayed by him, I would not have been 
so fidiused for all the chests in Corioli, and the gold 
that’s in them. Is the senate possessed of this ^ 

VoL. Good ladies, let ’s go. Yes, yes, yes; the senate 
has letters from the general, wherein he gives my son 
the whole name of the war : he hath in this action out- 
done his former deeds doubly. 129 

Val. In troth, there’s wondrous things spoke of him. 
Men. Wondrous ! ay, I warrant you, and not without 
his true purchasing. 

Vie. The gods grant them true ! 

VoL. True ! pow, wow. 

Men. True! I’ll be sworn they are true. Where is 
he wounded? {To the Tribunes] God save your good 
worships ! Marcius is coming home : he has more cause 
to be proud. Where is he wounded ? 

VoL. I’ the shoulder and i’ the left arm : there will be 

118 the oaken garland] Cf. I, iii, 14, supra, and note. 

124 fdiused] a verb jocularly coined from the name “Aufidius/' It means 
here “whipped (or beaten) as Aufidius was.” Cf. lines 59-00, supra, 
and note. 

125 possessed] fully informed. 

128 the whole name\ the whole credit, 




large cicatrices to show the people, when he shall staftd 
for his place. He received in the repulse of Tarquin 
seven hurts i’ the body. 

Men. One i’ the neck, and two the thigh; there's 
nine that I know. 

VoL. He had, 'before this last expedition, twenty five 
wounds upon him. 

Men. Now it’s twenty seven: every gash was an 
enemy’s grave. [A shout and flourish.] Hark ! the trum- 

VoL. These are the ushers of Marcius: before him 
He carries noise, and behind him he leaves tears: 150 

Death, that dark spirit, in ’s nervy arm doth lie ; 

Which, being advanced, declines, and then men die. 

A sennet. Trumpets sound. Enter Cominius and Titus Lartius; 
between ihem^ Coriolanus, crowned with an oaken garland; 
with Captains and Soldiers, and a Herald 

Her. Know, Rome, that all alone Marcius did fight 

141 for his place] for the consulship. Volumnia takes for granted that 
he has won his right to candidature for the office. 

143’-144 there’s nine that I know] Menenius counts in silence after enu- 
merating the second wound, and then announces a total of nine 
wounds within his knowledge. 

151 neri^y] sinewy. 

152 Which, being advanced] Which, being merely raised up and let fall, 
causes men to die. 

152 (Stage Direction) A sennet] A note on the trumpet, announcing the 
entry of a distinguished person. 

TUus Lartitis] This character was ordered to Corioli, I, ix, 75-76, 

[ 64 ] 



Within Corioli gates ; where he hath won, 

With fame, a name to Cains Marcius ; these 
In honour follows Coriolanus. 

Welcome to Rome, renowned Coriolanus ! [Flourish. 
All. Welcome to Rome, renowned Coriolanus! 

Cor. No more of this, it does oflFend my heart; 
Pray^now, no more. 

Com. Look, sir, your mother ! 

Cor. O, 160 

You have, I know, petition’d all the gods 
For my prosperity ! [Kneels. 

VoL. Nay, my good soldier, up; 

My gentle Marcius, worthy Cains, and 
By deed-achieving honour newly named, — 

What is it ? — Coriolanus must I call thee ? — 

But, O, thy wife ! 

Cor. My gracious silence, hail ! 

Wouldst thou have laugh’d had I come coffin’d home. 
That weep’st to see me triumph ? Ah, my dear. 

Such eyes the widows in Corioli wear. 

And mothers that lack sons. 

Men. Now, the gods crown thee ! 

Cor. And live you yet? [To Valeria] O my sweet 
lady, pardon. i7i 

supra, and is sent for thence, II, ii, 35-36, infra, so that he could not 
have been in Rome on the occasion of Coriolanus’ triumph. His 
name seems mentioned in error. No word is allotted him in this 

155 a name to] a name in addition to. 

166 My gracious sUence, hailf] The hero half ironically compliments his 
gentle wife on her tearful silence. 

[ 56 ] 


ACT n 

VoL. I know not where to turn : O, welcome home : 
And welcome, general: and ye’re welcome all. 

Men. a hundred thousand welcomes. I could weep, 
And I could laugh ; I am light and heavy. Welcome : 

A curse begin at very root on’s heart. 

That is not gla^ to see thee ! You are three 
That Rome should dote on: yet, by the faith of pien, 
We have some old crab-trees here at home that will 

Be grafted to your relish. Yet welcome, warriors : 180 

We call a nettle but a nettle, and 
The faults of fools but folly. 

Com. Ever right. 

Coe. Menenius, ever, ever. 

Her. Give way there, and go on. 

Cor. [ToVolumniaandVirgUia] Your hand, and yours : 
Ere in our own house I do shade my head. 

The good patricians must be visited; 

From whom I have received not only greetings, 

But with them change of honours. 

VoL. I have lived 

To see inherited my very wishes 

And the buildings of my fancy: only 190 

There’s one thing wanting, which I doubt not but 
Our Rome will cast upon thee. 

Cor. Know, good mother, 

188 Menenius, ever, ewr] Menenius is still the same frank old friend that 
he always was. 

188 vnth them change of horumrs] with the greetings varieties of honours. 
Theobald proposed to substitute charge (i. e., responsibility) for 

[ 66 ] 



I h’ad rather be their servant in my way 
Than sway with them in theirs. 

Com. On, to the Capitol ! 

[Flourish. Cornets. Exeunt in state, as before 
Brutus and Sicinius come forward. 
Bru. All tongues speak of him, and the bleared sights 
Are spectacled to see him : your prattling nurse 
Into a rapture lets her baby cry 
While she chats him: the kitchen malkin pins 
Her richest lockram ’bout her reechy neck. 

Clambering the walls to eye him : stalls, bulks, windows. 
Are smother’d up, leads fill’d and ridges horsed 80i 
With variable complexions, all agreeing 
In earnestness to see him : seld-shown flamens 
Do press among the popular throngs, and puff 
To win a vulgar station : our veil’d dames 

197 rapture] seizure or paroxysm. 

198 chats him] makes Coriolanus the subject of her chat. 

kitchen malkm] kitchen slut or slattern. “Malkin” is properly the 
diminutive of ‘‘Mall” or “Mary.” 

199 lockram . . . reechy] cheap linen . . , reeking, greasy. 

200 hulks] boards or ledges fastened to the outside of a house, on which 
articles were offered for sale. 

201-202 ridges horsed . , . complexions] roof-tops ridden astride by men 
and women of all sorts and conditions. 

203 seld-shown fnmem] priests who seldom appear in public. 

205 a vulgar station] a place among the common people. 

205-208 our veiVd dames . . burning kisses] a stilted way of saying that 
the women risk letting their pink and white complexions be spoiled 
by sunburn. Woman’s cheeks were commonly credited by Eliza- 
bethan poets with being the battleground of white and red colours. 

Cf. T, of Sh'f'ew, IV, v, 30; “Such war of white and red within her 

[ 57 ] 



Commit the war of white and damask in 
Their nicely-gawded cheeks to the wanton spoil 
Of Phoebus’ burning kisses : such a pother, 

As if that whatsoever god who leads him 

Were slily crept, into bis human powers, 210 

And gave him graceful posture. 

Sic. On the sudden, , 

I warrant him consul. 

Bru. Then our office may. 

During his power, go sleep. 

Sic. He cannot temperately transport his honours 
From where he should begin and end, but will 
Lose those he hath won. 

Bru. In that there’s comfort. 

Sic. Doubt not 

The commoners, for whom we stand, but they 
Upon their ancient malice will forget 
With the least cause these his new honours; which 

207 mcel?/-gawded] prettily ornamented, 

209 whatsoever god] the god whoever he be ; an allusion to the demon or 
guardian angel who was commonly reckoned to find a home m each 
man’s soul and to direct his conduct. In Ant. and Cleop., II, iii, 
2fi-22, this influence which is assumed to control Antony is called 
both his “ demon” and his “ angel.” 

214-216 He cannot . . . won] He cannot moderately proceed through 
the progressive grades of honour from the first stage to the last, but 
will sacrifice by his impetuosity the honours he gains by the way. For 
the construction “From where . . . end ” cf Cymb., Ill, ii, 62-63: 
“from our hence-going And our return [^c. hither].” 

218 Upon their ancient malice] Owing to their old hatred. 

219-221 which That ,,, to do *t] and make no question but that he will 

[ 68 ] 



Th'at he will give them make I as little question m 
As he is proud to do ’t. 

Bbu. I heard him swear. 

Were he to stand for consul, never would he 
Appear i’ the market-place, nor on hinj put 
The napless vesture of humility. 

Nor showing, as the manner is, his wounds 
To the people, beg their stinking breaths. 

Sic. ’T is right. 

Bru. It was his word : O, he would miss it rather 
Than carry it but by the suit of the gentry to him. 

And the desire of the nobles. 

Sic. I wish no better 

Than have him hold that purpose and to put it 2so 
In execution. 

Bru. ’T is most like he will. 

Sic. It shall be to him then, as our good wills, 

A sure destruction. 

Bru. So it must fall out 

To him or our authorities. For an end. 

We must suggest the people in what hatred 

give the people reason (for forgetting his new honours), and that he 
will feel pride in provoking their forgetfulness. 

224 The napless vesture of humUitj/] The poor threadbare garment of 
humility, which candidates for office in Republican Rome were com- 
pelled to wear. Napless is Rowers correction of the unintelligible 
misprint Naples. Cf. II, iii, 112, infra: “this woolviah toge,” and 

226 hreaihs\ suffrages, votes. 

232-233 It shall be .. . sure destruction] It shall be to him then, as our 
best wishes would have it, certain ruin. 

235 suggest^ prompt. 

[ 69 ] 


ACT 11 

He still hath held them ; that to ’s power he woul<f 
Have made them mules, silenced their pleaders and 
Dispropertied their freedoms; holding &em, 

In human action and capacity. 

Of no more soyl nor fitness for the world sio 

Than camels in the war, who have their provand 
Only for bearing burthens, and sore blows 
For sinking under them. 

Sic. This, as you say, suggested 

At some time when his soaring insolence 
Shall touch the people — which time shall not want. 

If he be put upon ’t ; and that ’s as easy 
As to set dogs on sheep — w'ill be his fire 
To kindle their dry stubble; and their blaze 
Shall darken him for ever. 

Enter a Messenger 

Bru. What ’s the matter? 

Mess. You are sent for to the Capitol. ’T is thought 
That Marcius shall be consul: 2si 

£36 to *8 power] as far as his power went. 

£38 Dispropertied their freedoms] Dispossessed, or deprived, them of their 

£40 Of no more sovl . . . world] Of no more intelligent feeling nor use 
in the world. 

£41 prrovand] an exceptional form of ** provender.” 

£45 towcK] Hanmer’s change for the Folio readmg teach. Pope read 
recwh. Teach the people” might possibly mean ”Put them in the 
appropriate frame of mind.” 

£46 pwt npon roused to anger. 

£47 his fire] as a fire lighted by himself. 

[ 60 ] 



I llave seen the dumb men throng to see him and 
The blind to hear him speak : matrons flung gloves. 
Ladies and maids their scarfs and handkerchers. 

Upon him as he pass’d : the nobles bended, 

As to Jove’s statue, and the commons made 
A shower and thunder with their caps and shouts: 

I never saw the like. 

Bru. Let ’s to the Capitol, 

And carry with us ears and eyes for the time, 

But hearts for the event. 

Sic. Have with you. [Exeunt. *60 

Enter two Officers, to lay cushions 

First Off. Come, come, they are almost here. 
How many stand for consulships? 

Sec. Off. Three, they say : but ’t is thought of 
every one Coriolanus will carry it. 

First Off. That ’s a brave fellow ; but he ’s ven- 
geance proud, and loves not the common people. 

J257 tvith their caps] by flinging up their caps which came down shower- 

259-260 carry with ua , . . event] keep our eyes and ears open for all 
that b passing and keep our hearts resolute in regard to the issue. 
260 Have with yoii] Get along. 

5-6 he* 8 vengeance proiwi] he’s proud with a vengeance, excessively proud 

[ 61 ] 


ACT n 

Sec. Off. Faith, there have been many great men 
that have flattered the people, who ne’er loved them; 
and there be many that they have loved, they know 
not wherefore : so that, if they love they know not why, lo 
they hate upon qo better a ground : therefore, for Corio- 
lanus neither to care whether they love or hate him man- 
ifests the true knowledge he has in their disposition; 
and out of his noble carelessness lets them plainly 
see ’t. 

First Off. If he did not care whether he had their 
love or no, he waved indifferently ’twixt doing them 
neither good nor harm; but he seeks their hate with 
greater devotion than they can render it him, and leaves 
nothing undone that may fully discover him their oppo- 
site. Now, to seem to affect the malice and displeasure 20 
of the people is as bad as that which he dislikes, to flat- 
ter them for their love. 

Sec. Off. He hath deserved worthily of his country ; 
and his ascent is not by such easy degrees as those who, 
having been supple and courteous to the people, bon- 

he waved indifferently] he would have been quite neutral; he would 
have shown indifference. 

18 devotion] earnestness, 

19 opposite] enemy, opponent. 

20 affect] attract, pursue. 

24 by Such easy degrees as those] by such easy stages as the ascent of 

25-27 bonneted . . . eslivnaiion] took off their caps (to the people) and 
so won their way into the people’s estimation and repute, without 
doing an 3 ^hing else to get into their favour or regard. 

[ 62 ] 

scmE II 


ngted, without any further deed to have them at all into 
their estimation and report : but he hath so planted his 
honours in their eyes and his actions in their hearts, that 
for their tongues to be silent and not confess so much, 
were a kind of ingrateful injury ; to yeport otherwise so 
were a malice that, giving itself the lie, would pluck re- 
proof and rebuke from every ear that heard it. 

First Off. No more of him; he ’s a worthy man: 
make way, they are coming. 

A sennet. Enter, with Lictors before them, Cominius the Consul, 
Menenius, Cohiolanus, Senators, Sicinids and Brutus 
The Senators take their places; the Tribunes take their places 
by themselves. Coeiolanus stands 

Men. Having determined of the Volsces and 
To send for Titus Lartius, it remains. 

As the main point of this our after-meeting, 

To gratify his noble service that 

Hath thus stood for his country : therefore, please 

Most reverend and grave elders, to desire 40 

The present consul, and last general 

In our well-found successes, to report 

A little of that worthy work perform’d 

By Caius Marcius Coriolanus; whom 

We met here, both to thank and to remember 

With honours like himself. 

45-46 to remember With honours like himself] to commemorate with hon 
ours proportionate to his merits. 

[ 68 ] 


ACT 11 

Fihst Sen. Speak, good Cominius : 

Leave nothing out for length, and make us think 
Bather our state ’s defective for requital 
Than we to stretch it out. {To the Trihune^ Masters o’ 
the people. 

We do request your kindest ears, and after. 

Your loving motion toward the common body, 

To yield what passes here. 

Sic. We are convented 

Upon a pleasing treaty, and have hearts 
Inclinable to honour and advance 
The theme of our assembly. 

Brtj. Which the rather 

We shall be bless’d to do, if he remember 
A kinder value of the people than 
He hath hereto prized them at. 

Men. That ’s off, that ’s off ; 

I would you rather had been silent. Please you 
To hear Cominius speak ? 

Bbu. Most willingly: 

But yet my caution was more pertinent 
Than the rebuke you give it. 

47-49 make tee think . . . stretch it (ru£\ make us think that the republic 
is rather too niggardly in rewarding his service than suppose us to 
exaggerate the merits of his service 
60 your kindest eaw] your most favourable attention. 

51 Your loving . . . body] Your kind interposition with the populace. 

5ft yield] announce. 

convented] convened. 

56 hkss'd to do] happy in doing. 

58 'priaei] valued. 

That's off] That's off the point, irrelevant. 

[ 64 ] 



Men. He loves your people ; 

But tie him not to be their bedfellow. 

Worthy Cominius, speak. [Coriolanus offers to go away.] 
Nay, keep your place. 

First Sen. Sit, Coriolanus; never shame to hear 
What you have nobly done. 

Coy. Your honours’ pardon : 

I had rather have my wounds to heal again. 

Than hear say how I got them. 

Bru. Sir, I hope 

My words disbench’d you not. 

Cor. No, sir: yet oft, 

When blows have made me stay, I fled from words. 
You sooth’d not, therefore hurt not: but your people, 
I love them as they weigh. 

Men. Pray now, sit down. 

Cor. I had rather have one scratch my head i’ the 

When the alarum were struck than idly sit 

To hear my nothings monster’d. [Exit. 

Men. Masters of the people. 

Your multiplying spawn how can he flatter — 

That’s thousand to one good one — when you now see 
He had rRther venture all his limbs for honour 
Than one on’s ears to hear it? Proceed, Cominius. 

69 diabench'd you] caused you to leave your seat or bench. 

71 socflh'd] flattered. 
weigh] merit. 

75 monster" d\ grossly exaggerated. 

77 That" a thouaand. . . . one] There is but one good man in a thousand 
of such riffraff. 


[ 65 ] 



Com. 1 shall lack voice: the deeds of Coriolanus so 
Should not be utter’d feebly. It is held 
That valour is the chiefest virtue and 
Most dignifies the haver: if it be, 

The man I speak of cannot in the world 
Be singly counterpoised. At sixteen years, 

When Tarquin made a head for Rome, he fought 
Beyond the mark of others : our then dictator, 

Whom with all praise I point at, saw him fight. 

When with his Amazonian chin he drove 

The bristled lips before him : he bestrid 90“ 

An o’er-press’d Roman, and i’ the consul’s view 

Slew three opposers : Tarquin ’s self he met. 

And struck him on his knee: in that day’s feats, 

When he might act the woman in the scene, 

He proved best man i’ the field, and for his meed 
Was brow-bound with the oak. His pupil age 

86 TJtade a head for Rome] raised an army to reconquer Rome. 

87 our then dictator] Vague hints of Plutarch are followed here: *‘Mar- 

cius valiantly fought in the sight of the Dictator.” The dictator is 
not identified by Plutarch. According to Livy, Titus Lartius was the 
first Roman to be made dictator. He was appointed during the war 
with the Tarquins. 

89 Amazonian chin] beardless chin. 

90 bestrid] saved a man’s life in battle by standing astride of him. It 

was always reckoned one of the most honourable of services. Cf. 
Macb.t IV,iii,4: ‘*like good men Bestride our down-falPn birthdom.” 

98 struck him on his knee] with a sudden blow brought him to his knee. 

94 When he might act the woman] a reference to the practice of boys 
taking women’s parts on the contemporary stage. 

96 brouhbound with the oak] See note on I, iii, 14, sujrra. 

96-97 His pupU age Man-erUer'd thus] The general sense is that his 

[ 66 ] 

scmE n 


Man-enter’d thus, he waxed like a sea; 

And, in the brunt of seventeen battles since. 

He lurch’d all swords of the garland. For this last. 
Before and in Corioli, let me say, loo 

I cannot speak him home : he stopp’d the fliers ; 

And by his rare example made the coward 
Turn terror into sport: as weeds before 
A vessel under sail, so men obey’d, 

And fell below his stem: his sword, death’s stamp. 
Where it did mark, it took; from face to foot 
He was a thing of blood, whose every motion 
Was timed with dying cries: alone he enter’d 

minority was distinguished by all the virtues and valour of manhood. 
“Pupil age*’ though written as two words is equivalent to “pupilage,” 
i. c., minority, or boyhood The compound “ Man-enter *d** means 
“initiated in manhood”, “entered” is used in much the same sense, 

I, i, 2, supra' “they of Rome are enter'd in our counsels.” 

99 He lurch'd all swords of the garland] Cf. Ben Jonson’s Silent Womans 
V, iv, 227 : “You have lurch'd [i. e., deprived, cheated] your friends of 
the better halfe of the garland.” “Lurch” was a term familiar to 
card-players and card-sharpers, and connoted great rapidity in the 
deceptive operation. There was a card game so called, and the 
word was often applied to a victory in any set or rubber in which no 
points were scored by the adversary. 

103 weeds] Thus the First Folio, for which later Folios substitute waves, 
“Weeds” confuses the metaphor, but may well be retained, since it 
emphasises the feebleness of Coriolanus’ enemy 

105 his swordy death's stamp] the instrument with which death sealed or 
stamped men for its own. 

106 Where tt did marky it took] It took effect wherever it touched. 

107-108 every motion . . . cries] the cries of the slaughtered followed his 

movement with the regularity with which a dancer keeps time to the 

[ 67 ] 


ACT n 

The mortal gate of the city, which he painted 
With shunless destiny; aidless came off, no 

And with a sudden re-enforcement struck 
Corioli like a planet : now all ’s his : 

When, by and by, the din of war gan pierce 
His ready sense; then straight his doubled spirit 
Re-quicken’d what in flesh was fatigate, <• 

And to the battle came he; where he did 
Run reeking o’er the lives of men, as if 
’T were a perpetual spoil : and till we call’d 
Both field and city ours, he never stood 
To ease his breast with panting. 

Men. Worthy man ! 120 

First Sen. He cannot but with measure fit the 

Which we devise him. 

Com. Our spoils he kick’d at, 

And look’d upon things precious, as they were 
The common muck of the world : he covets less 
Than misery itself would give; rewards 

109-110 The mortal gate . . . destiny] The gate of the city doomed to 
destruction, which he covered with the blood of those destined to death 
without chance of escape. 

111-112 struck Corioli like a planet] an allusion to the sudden fatalities 
ascribed to planetary influence. Cf. Tim. 0 / Ath.y IV, iii, 108 : “ Be as 
2 L planetary plague,” and Til. Andr,^ II, iv, 14: “some planet strike 
me down.” 

115 fatigate] wearied out. 

121 vnth measure] with propriety, competently. 

122 kick*d at] spumed. 

125 misery] parsimony, avarice. The word is formed from “miser.” 

[ 68 ] 



His deeds with doing them, and is content 
To spend the time to end it. 

Men. He ’s right noble : 

Let him be call’d for. 

First Sen. Call Coriolanus. . 

Off. He doth appear. 


R£-enter Cobiolantts 

Men. The senate, Coriolanus, are well pleased iso 
To make thee consul. 

Cob. I do owe them still 

My life and services. 

Men. It then remains 

That you do speak to the people. 

Cor. I do beseech you, 

Let me o’erleap that custom, for I cannot 
Put on the gown, stand naked, and entreat them. 

For my wounds’ sake, to give their suffrage : please you 
That 1 may pass this doing. 

Sic. Sir, the people 

127 To spend ... to end To spend the time in doing great 
acts for their own sake and not for the sake of future reward. 
“To end” has the sense of “to finish up altogether,” “to have done 

134-135 that custom . . . entreat them] according to North’s rendering of 
Plutarch’s Life of Conolanus: “it was the custome of Borne at that 
time, that such as dyd sue for any office, should for certen dayes before 
be in the market-place, only with a poor gowne on their hacices, and 
vrithovt any coate undemeath^ to praye the people to remember them 
at the day of election.*' 

137 pass this doing] omit this action. 

[ 69 ] 



Must have their voices; neither will they bate 
One jot of ceremony. 

Men. Put them not to ’t : 

Pray you, go fit you to the custom, and lio 

Take to you, as.your predecessors have, 

Your honour with your form. 

Cor. ■* It is a part , 

That I shall blush in acting, and might well 
Be taken from the people. 

Bru. Mark you that? 

Cor. To brag unto them, thus I did, and thus; 

Show them the unaching scars which I should hide. 

As if I had received them for the hire 
Of their breath only ! 

Men. Do not stand upon ’t. 

We recommend to you, tribunes of the people. 

Our purpose to them : and to our noble consul iso 

Wish we all joy and honour. 

Senators. To Coriolanus come all joy and honour ! 

[Flourish of cornets. Exeunt all but Sicimus and Brutus, 
Bru. You see how he intends to use the people. 

Sic. May they perceive ’s intent ! He will require them, 

138 have their voices] exercise their votes. The term ‘‘voice'* was in- 
variably used for “vote” by Shakespeare. 

139 Put them not to Do not rouse their anger. 

142 with your form] in the manner prescribed for you by tradition. 

148 Do not stand upon *t] Do not be obstinate 

149-150 We recommend to them] We ask you tribunes of the people 
to recommend to the plebeians for their approbation what we are pro- 
posing to them, viz., Coriolanus’ appointment to the consulship. 
154-156 He will require to give] He will make demand of them, as 

[ 70 ] 



As If he did contemn what he requested 
Should be in them to give, 

Bbu. Come, we’ll inform them 

Of our proceedings here : on the market-place, 

I know, they do attend us. ^ [Exeunt. 


Enter seven or eight Citizens 

First Cit. Once, if he do require our voices, we 
ought not to deny him. 

Sec. Cit, We may, sir, if we will. 

Third Cit. We have power in ourselves to do it, but 
it is a power that we have no power to do; for if he 
show us his wounds and tell us his deeds, we are to put 
our tongues into those wounds and speak for them ; so, 
if he tell us his noble deeds, we must also tell him our 
noble acceptance of them. Ingratitude is monstrous : 
and for the multitude to be ingrateful, were to make a lo 
monster of the multitude ; of the which we being mem- 
bers, should bring ourselves to be monstrous members. 

First Cit. And to make us no better thought of, a 
little help will serve; for once we stood up about the 

if he scorned the fact that it should be in their power to give him what 
he requested. 

158 attend] wait for. Cf. I, x, 30, supra. 

1 Once] Once for all, in a word. 

5 it is a power . , . power to do] it is a natural power that we have no 
moral right to exercise. “Power” is used in two different senses. 

14 once we stood up] no sooner did we stand up (than). 




corn, he himself stuck not to call us the many-heailed 

Third Cit. We have been called so of many; not 
that our heads are some brown, some black, some au- 
burn, some bald, but that our wits are so diversely col- 
oured : and truly I think, if all our wits were to issue out 80 
of one skull, they would fly east, west, north, south, and 
their consent of one direct way should be at once to all 
the points o’ the compass. 

Sec. Cit. Think you so ? Which way do you judge 
my wit would fly ? 

Third Cit. Nay, your wit will not so soon out as 
another man’s will ; ’t is strongly wedged up in a block- 
head ; but if it were at liberty, ’t would, sure, southward. 

Sec. Cit. Why that way? 

Third Cit. To lose itself in a fog ; where being three so 
parts melted away with rotten dews, the fourth would 
return for conscience sake, to help to get thee a wife. 

Sec. Cit. You are never without your tricks: you 
may, you may. 

Third Cit. Are you all resolved to give your voices ? 
But that’s no matter, the greater part carries it. 1 say, 
if he would incline to the people, there was never a wor- 
thier man. 

18 avbum] Thus the Fourth Folio. The earlier Folios read Abram, an 
old spelling of the same word. “Abraham (or Abram) coloured” 
usually means “ flaxen ” 

38 southward] The south wind is invariably described by Shakespeare as 
bringing fog and rain Cf. I, iv, 30, supra, and As you like it. III, v, 
50: “Like foggy south, puffing with wind and rain.” 

SS-S4 you may, you may] please go on ; used ironically, 

[ 72 ] 



Enter CosiOLAi^Trs ire a gown of humility, with Mbnenius 
H ere he comes, and in the gown of humility : mark his 
behaviour. We are not to stay all together, but to come 
by him where he stands, by ones, by twos, and by threes. 
He ’s to make his requests by particulars ; wherein every 
one of us has a single honour, in giving him our own 
voices with our own tongues : therefore follow me, and 
I ’ll direct you how you shall go by him. 

All. Content, content. [Exeunt Citizens. 

Men. O sir, you are not right : have you not known 
The worthiest men have done ’t ? 

Cor. What must I say ? — 

“I pray, sir,” — Plague upon ’t ! I cannot bring 
My tongue to such a pace. “Look, sir, my wounds ! so 
I got them in my country’s service, when 
Some certain of your brethren roar’d, and ran 
From the noise of our own drums.” 

Men. O me, the gods ! 

You must not speak of that: you must desire them 
To think upon you. 

Cor. Think upon me ! hang ’em ! 

I would they would forget me, like the virtues 
Which our divines lose by ’em. 

Men. You ’ll mar all : 

I ’ll leave you : pray you, speak to ’em, I pray you. 

In wholesome manner. [Exit. 

Cor. Bid them wash their faces, 

42 by particulars] addressing each of us individually. 

55 To think upon you] To think well of you. 

56-57 like the virtues ... by *€m] As they forget the virtuous teachings 
which our divines waste on them, or lose their time by preaching to them. 

[ 73 ] 


ACT 11 

And keep their teeth clean. [Re-enter two of the Citizens.] So, 
here comes a brace. 

Re-enter a third Citizen 

You know the cause, sir, of my standi^ here. 

Third Cit. We do, sir; tell us what bath brought 
you to ’t. 

Cor. Mine own desert. 

Sec. Cit. Your own desert! 

Cor. Ay, but not mine own desire. 

Third Cit. How ! not your own desire ! 

Cor. No, sir, ’t was never my desire yet to trouble 
the poor with begging. 

Third Cit. You must think, if we give you any thing, to 
we hope to gain by you. 

Cor. Well then, I pray, your price o’ the consul- 
ship ? 

First Cit. The price is, to ask it kindly. 

Cor. Kindly ! Sir, I pray, let me ha ’t : I have 
wounds to show you, which shall be yours in private. 
Your good voice, sir; what say you ? 

Sec. Cit. You shall ha’t, worthy sir. 

Cor. a match, sir. There ’s in all two worthy voices 
begged. I have your alms: adieu. 

60-61 (Stage Directions) Re-enter two of the Citizens . . Re-enter a third 
Citizen] Thus the Cambridge editors. The Folios here have only the 
single stage direction, Enter three of the Citizens But Coriolanus 
specifies the entry in the first instance of only “a brace.” Hence 
the change. 

66 Ay^ but not mine] The First Folio erroneously omits not. The other 
Folios (substantially) omit but. The presence of the two words im- 
proves the sense. 

[ 74 ] 



TThird CiT. But this is something odd. 

Sec. Cit. An ’t were to give again, — but ’t is no 
matter. \Exeunt the three Citizens. 

Re-enter two other Citizens 

CoH. Pray you now, if it may stand 'with the tune of 
your voices that I may be consul, I have here the cus- 
tomaiy gown. 

Fourth Cit. You have deserved nobly of your coun- 
try, and you have not deserved nobly. 

Cor. Your enigma.? 

Fourth Cit. You have been a scourge to her enemies, 
you have been a rod to her friends ; you have not indeed 
loved the common people. 

Cor. You should account me the more virtuous, that 
I have not been common in my love. I will, sir, flatter 
my sworn brother, the people, to earn a dearer estima- 
tion of them ; ’t is a condition they account gentle : and 
since the wisdom of their choice is rather to have my hat 
than my heart, I will practise the insinuating nod, and 
be off to them most counterfeitly ; that is, sir, I will 
counterfeit the bewitchment of some popular man, and 

03 sworn brother] bosom friend, comrade in adventurous enterprise, a 
reference to the mediseval institution of “fratres jurati/* men bound 
by oath to share together chivalric adventures Cf. Rich. //, V, 
i, 20-21 ; “I am sworn brother . . To grim Necessity ” 

93-94 to earn ... of them] to earn of them a higher opinion. 

94 a condition] the sort of behaviour. 

97 be off to them most counterfeitly] take my bat off to them with a pretence 

of real feeling 

98 bewitchment] bewitching address Cf. Hen F///, III, ii, 18-19. “he 

hath a witchcraft ... in *s tongue ’* 

[ 76 ] 


give it bountiful to the desirers. Therefore, beseech ybu, 

I may be consul. lOO 

Fifth Cit. We hope to find you our friend; and 
therefore give you our voices heartily. 

Fourth Cit. You have received many wounds for 
your country. 

Cor. I will not seal your knowledge with sh,owing 
them. I will make much of your voices, and so trouble 
you no farther. 

Both Cit. The gods give you joy, sir, heartily ! 

Cor. Most sweet voices ! [Exeunt. 

Better it is to die, better to starve, no 

Than crave the hire which first we do deserve. 

Why in this woolvish toge should I stand here. 

To beg of Hob and Dick that do appear. 

Their needless vouches ? Custom calls me to ’t : 

105 seal] complete, give the final touch to. 

110 starve] Thus the Fourth Folio. The earlier Folios give the old form 
sterve, which the rhyme with deserve seems to require. 

112 toge] Thus Steevens and Malone. The First Folio reads tongite; the 
later Folios gowne. “Toge ” (i. e., toga) is doubtless right. Cf . Othello^ 
I, i, 25, where the correct Quarto reading “the toged consuls” is mis- 
printed by the Folio “the tongued consuls.” The candidate’s robe 
or toga was usually made of white lambskin. It is called “napless 
vesture,” II, i, 224, supra. The significance of “wolfish” is therefore 
difficult. It may suggest that Coriolanus conceals a wolf’s ferocity 
under his lambskin robe, or more probably the word may be loosely 
used for “crude” or “rough.” The emendation wooUess has little 
to recommend it. 

11$ Hob and Dick] common names of country bumpkins. 

114 vouches] voices, votes. 

[ 76 ] 



What custom wills, in all things should we do’t, 

The dust on antique time would lie unswept. 

And mountainous error be too highly heap’d 
For truth to o’er-peer. Rather than fool it so. 

Let the high office and the honour go 

To one that would do thus. I am half through: i*o 

The one part suffer’d, the other will I do. 

Re-enter three Citizens more 
Here come moe voices. 

Your voices: for your voices I have fought; 

Watch’d for your voices ; for your voices bear 
Of wounds two dozen odd; battles thrice six 
I have seen, and heard of ; for your voices have 
Done many things, some less, some more : your voices : 
Indeed, I would be consul. 

Sixth Cit. He has done nobly, and cannot go without 
any honest man’s voice. iso 

Seventh Cit. Therefore let him be consul : the gods 
give him joy, and make him good friend to the people ! 
All. Amen, amen. God save thee, noble consul ! 


Cor. Worthy voices ! 

Re-enter Menenius, with BRtrrtrs and Sicmras 
Men. You have stood your limitation; and the 

122 moe] an archaic form of ‘*more.” 

126 heard of] The speaker is in an ironical mood. He means that he has 
heard some such talk as that. Cf. II, ii, 98, supra, where Commius 
credits Coriolanus with “seventeen” (and not “thrice six, i. e, 
eighteen) battles. 

1S5— 136 You have stood your limitation . . . people s v<yic^ You have 

[ 77 ] 



Endue you with the people’s voice : remains 
That in the official marks invested you 
Anon do meet the senate. 

Cob. Is this done? 

Sic. The custom of request you have discharged : 

The people do admit you, and are summon’d mo 

To meet anon upon your approbation. 

Cor. Where ? at the senate-house ? 

Sic. There, Coriolanus. 

Cor. May I change these garments? 

Sic. You may, sir. 

Cor. That I’ll straight do, and, knowing myself 

Repair to the senate-house. 

Men. I ’ll keep you company. Will you along ? 

Bru. We stay here for the people. 

Sic. Fare you well. 

[Exeunt Coriolanus and Menenius. 
He has it now; and, by his looks, methinks 
’T is warm at ’s heart. 

Bru. With a proud heart he wore 

His humble weeds. Will you dismiss the people ? iso 

Re-enter Citizens 

Sic. How now, my masters ! have you chose this 
man ? 

First Cit. He has our voices, sir. 

stood your appointed time, and the tribunes invest you with what the 
people have voted you. 

137 the official marke] the distinctive badges of office. 

149 is warm at *s heart] It is comforting to his heart. 

[ 78 ] 


6ru. We pray the gods he may deserve your loves. 
Sec. Cit. Amen, sir: to my poor unwort% notice, 

He mock’d us when he begg’d our voices. 

Third Cit. Certainly 

He flouted us downright. 

First Cit. No, ’t is his kind of speech ; he did not 
• mock us. 

Sec. Cit. Not one amongst us, save yourself, but 

He used us scornfully: he should have show’d us 
His marks of merit, wounds received for ’s country, loo 
Sic. Why, so he did, I am sure. 

Citizens. No, no; no man saw ’em. 

Third Cit. He said he had wounds which he could 
show in private; 

And with his hat, thus waving it in scorn, 

“I would be consul,” says he: “aged custom. 

But by your voices, will not so permit me; 

Your voices therefore.” When we granted that. 

Here was “I thank you for your voices: thank you: 
Your most sweet voices ; now you have left your voices, 

I have no further with you.” Was not this mockery ? no 
Sic. Why, either were you ignorant to see ’t. 

Or, seeing it, of such childish friendliness 
To yield your voices ? 

Bru. Could you not have told him, 

166 aqed custom] Shakespeare seems to have overlooked the fact that 
the consular election was really an innovation after the very recent 
expulsion of the kings 

171 were you {gnorarU to see ’1] you lacked the knowledge or intelligence 
to discern it. 

[ 79 ] 



As you were lesson’d, when be had no power, 

But was a petty servant to the state. 

He was your enemy ; ever spake against 
Your liberties and the charters that you bear 
I’ the body of ,the weal : and now, arriving 
A place of potency and sway o’ the state, 

If he should still malignantly remain . iso 

Fast foe to the plebeii, your voices might 
Be curses to yourselves ? You should have said, 

That as his worthy deeds did claim no less 
Than what he stood for, so his gracious nature ' 

Would think upon you for your voices, and 
Translate his malice towards you into love. 

Standing your friendly lord. 

Sic. Thus to have said. 

As you were fore-advised, had touch’d his spirit 

And tried his inclination; from him pluck’d 

Either his gracious promise, which you might, i90 

As cause had call’d you up, have held him to ; 

Or else it would have gall’d his surly nature. 

Which easily endures not article 

Tying him to aught: so, putting him to rage. 

You should have ta’en the advantage of his choler, 

And pass’d him unelected. 

174 letson’d] instructed. 

178 arriving] reaching. The usage is common. 

185 think upon you for your voices] retain grateful remembrance of you 
for your votes. 

188 touch'd] tested as with the touchstone. 

193-194 endures not , . to aught] does not submit to any binding 

[ 80 ] 



Bbu. Did you perceive 

He did solicit you in free contempt 
When he did need your loves ; and do you think 
That his contempt shall not be bruising to you 199 

When he hath power to crush ? Why, had your bodies 
No heart among you ? or had you tongues to cry 
Against the rectorship of judgement ? 

Sic. Have you, 

Ere now, denied the asker? and now again. 

Of him that did not ask but mock, bestow 
Your sued-for tongues ? 

Third Cit. He ’s not confirm’d ; we may deny him yet. 

Sec. Cit. And will deny him : 

I ’ll have five hundred voices of that sound. 

First Cit. I twicc-five hundred, and their friends to 

piece ’em. 209 

Bru. Get you hence instantly, and tell those friends. 
They have chose a consul that will from them take 
Their liberties, make them of no more voice 
Than dogs that are as often beat for barking. 

As therefore kept to do so. 

Sic. Let them assemble; 

And, on a safer judgement, all revoke 

197 jree contem'pt^ unrestrained scorn. 

201-202 OT had you tongues ... of judgement] or can it be that your 
tongues express themselves in opposition to the rule of judgment ? 
did you vote against your better judgment ? 

205 Four sued-for tongues] The votes which should have been solicited 
of you. 

209 to piece 'em] to add to them, strengthen them. 

214 As therefore kept to do 5 o] As kept for the very purpose of doing so. 

6 [ 81 ] 



Your ignorant election: enforce his pride 
And his old hate unto you : besides, forget not 
With what contempt he wore the humble weed, 

How in his suit he scorn’d you : but your loves. 
Thinking upon his services, took from you m 

The apprehension of his present portance. 

Which most gibingly, ungravely, he did fashioR 
After the inveterate hate he bears you. 

Bbu. Lay 

A fault on us, your tribunes; that we labour’d. 

No impediment between, but that you must 
Cast your election on him. 

Sic. Say, you chose him 

More after our commandment than as guided 
By your own true affections ; and that your minds, 
Pre-occupied with what you rather must do 
Than what you should, made you against the grain 2so 
To voice him consul : lay the fault on us. 

Bru. Ay, spare us not. Say we read lectures to you. 
How youngly he began to serve his country, 

How long continued; and what stock he springs of. 

The noble house o’ the Marcians, from whence came 

216 enforce^ urge, lay stress on; with a sense of deliberate exaggeration. 
Cf. Ill, iii, 3, infra: ^'Enforce him with his envy* with the people.” 

221 'portance] carriage, bearing 

222 ungravely] without dignity, extravagantly 

224-226 we labour d . . election on him] we took pains to remove any 

obstacle or impediment in the way of your inclination to vote for 

231 To voice him] To vote him 

235-242 The noble house . . . great ancestor] This account of Coriolanus’ 

[ 82 ] 



That Ancus Marcius, Numa’s daughter’s son, 

Who, after great Hostilius, here was king; 

Of the same house Publius and Quintus were. 

That our best water brought by conduits hither; 

4nd [Censorinus] nobly named so, * 240 

Twice being [by the people chosen] censor, 

Was hi? great ancestor. 

Sic. One thus descended. 

That hath beside well in his person wrought 
To be set high in place, we did commend 
*To your remembrances : but you have found. 

Scaling his present bearing with his past. 

That he ’s your fixed enemy, and revoke 
Your sudden approbation. 

Bru. Say, you ne’er had done ’t — 

Harp on that still — but by our putting on : 

And presently, when you have drawn your number, 2 so 
Repair to the Capitol. 

ancestry is drawn verbatim from the opening sentences of Plutarch’s 

240-242 And [Censonnus] . , . ancestor] These lines have been recon- 
structed from North’s text North here translates Plutarch thus: 
“Censorinus also came of that family, that was so sumamed because 
the people had chosen him censor twice ’’ The Folios omit all refer- 
ence to Censorinus, and placing a comma after hither, read thus . 

. “ And Nobly nam'd, so twice being Censor, 

Was his great Ancestor " 

The added words are essential to intelligibility 
246 Scaling] Weighing, balancing. 

249 by our ‘putting on] at our instigation. 

250 drawn your nu'mher] drawn together or levied the full number of your 

[ 83 ] 



Citizens. We will so: almost all 

Repent in their election. [ExmrU CiUaent. 

Bru. Let them go on; 

This mutiny were better put in hazard. 

Than stay, pas4 doubt, for greater: 

If, as his nature is, he fall in rage 

With their refusal, both observe and answer 

The vantage of his anger. 

Sic. To the Capitol, come: 

We will be there before the stream o’ the people; 

And this shall seem, as partly ’t is, their own. 

Which we have goaded onward. [Exeunt, eao 

256-257 observe and answer . . . anqer\ observe and be ready to take 
any advantage that his anger affords, improve the opportunity which 
his anger will offer. 

[ 84 ] 


Cornets. Enter Coriolanus, Menenius, aU the Gentry, CoMiNius, 
Titus Lartius, and other Senators 


had made new head ? 

Lart. He had, my lord ; and 
that it was which caused 
Our swifter composition. 

Cor. So then the Volsces 
stand but as at first; 

Ready, when time shall prompt 
them, to make road 
Upon ’s again. 

Com. They are worn, lord 
consul, so. 

That we shall hardly in our ages 

Their banners wave again. 

Cor. Saw you Aufidius ? 

Lart. On safe-guard he came to me ; and did curse 

[ 86 ] 



Against the Volsces, for they had so vilely * lo 

Yielded the town : he is retired to Antium. 

Cob. Spoke he of me ? 

Lart. He did, my lord. 

Coe. How ? what ? 

Lakt. How often he had met you, sword to sword ; 

That of all things upon the earth he hated . 

Your person most; that he would pawn his fortunes 
To hopeless restitution, so he might 
Be call’d your vanquisher. 

Cor. At Antium lives he? 

Lart. At Antium. 

Cor. I wish I had a cause to seek him there, 

To oppose his hatred fully. Welcome home. «o 

Enter Sicinujs and Brutus 

Behold, these are the tribunes of the people. 

The tongues o’ the common mouth : I do despise them ; 
For they do prank them in authority, 

ALgainst all noble sufferance. 

Sic. Pass no further. 

Cor. Ha ! what is that ? 

Bru. It will be dangerous to go on : no further. 

1 made new head] raised a new body of troops. 

3 Out swifter composition] Our hurried negotiation of peace. 

5 make road] make advance. 

9 On safe-guard] Under safe conduct, under escort. 

16 To hopeless rsstitutiOYi] Without any hope of restitution. 

23 prank them] plume themselves. Cf Meas. for Meas.y II, ii, 117-118; 

“man Drest in a little brief authority. ’’ 

24 Against all noble sufferance] Past the endurance of all noble natures. 

[ 86 ] 



Cob. What makes this change ? 

Men. The matter? 

Com. Hath he not pass’d the noble and the common ? 

* Beu. Cominius, no. 

Coe. Have I had children’s voices ? so 

Fiest Sen. Tribunes, give way; he shall to the 
» market-place. 

Beu. The people are incensed against him. 

Sic. Stop, 

Or all will fall in broil. 

Coe. Are these your herd ? 

Must these have voices, that can yield them now. 

And straight disclaim their tongues? What are your 
offices ? 

You being their mouths, why rule you not their teeth? 
Have you not set them on ? 

Men. Be calm, be calm. 

Coe. It is a purposed thing, and grows by plot. 

To curb the will of the nobility; 

Suffer ’t, and live with such as cannot rule, 4o 

Nor ever will be ruled. 

Beu. Call ’t not a plot: 

The people cry you mock’d them ; and of late. 

When corn was given them gratis, you repined, 

Scandal’d the suppliants for the people, call’d them 
Time-pleasers, flatterers, foes to nobleness. 

29 noble . . . common] Thus the First Folio. The later Folios read noble 
. . Commons Rowe adopted nobles , . . commons. 

43-44 you repinedy ScandaVd] you murmured against, you slandered 
‘‘Repine,*’ which here seems to be used transitively, is commonly 
found as an intransitive verb {i. e., “fret,” or “murmur”) 

[ 87 ] 



Cob. Why, this was known before. 

Bru. Not to them all. 

Cor. Have you inform’d them si thence ? 

Bru. How! I inform them! * 

Com. You arq like to do such business. 

Bru. Not unlike. 

Each way, to better yours. • 

Cor. Why then should I be consul ? By yond clouds, so 
Let me deserve so ill as you, and make me 
Your fellow tribune. 

Sic. You show too much of that 

For which the people stir : if you will pass 
To where you are bound, you must inquire your way. 
Which you are out of, with a gentler spirit; 

Or never be so noble as a consul. 

Nor yoke with him for tribune. 

Men. Let ’s be calm. 

Com. The people are abused ; set on. This paltering 
Becomes not Rome; nor has Coriolanus 
Deserved this so dishonour’d rub, laid falsely eo 

I’ the plain way of his merit. 

47 sitkence] an archaic form of “since.” 

48 Fou are like . . . bimness] The Folios assign this speech to Cominius, 

but Theobald reasonably transferred it to Coriolanus. 

48-49 Not unlike . , . yours] We are not unlikely to take a better course 
than you in every direction. 

58 The people are abused; set on] The people are deceived; let us get on 
with our business. 
paltering] shuffling or haggling. 

60 dishonour* d rub] dishonourable impediment; “rub” is the technical 
term for an obstacle in the way of a throw at the game of bowls. 
falsely] treacherously. 

[ 88 ] 



Cor. Tell me of corn ! 

This was my speech, and I will speak ’t again — 

Men. Not now, not now. 

First Sen. Not in this heat, sir, now. 

Cor. Now, as I live, I will. My npbler friends, 

I crave their pardons : 

For ihe mutable, rank-scented many, let them 
Regard me as I do not flatter, and 
Therein behold themselves: I say again. 

In soothing them, we nourish ’gainst our senate 
The cockle of rebellion, insolence, sedition, 

Which we ourselves have plough’d for, sow’d and 

By mingling them with us, the honour’d number; 

Who lack not virtue, no, nor power, but that 
Which they have given to beggars. 

Men. Well, no more. 

First Sen. No more words, we beseech you. 

Cor. How ! no more ! 

As for my country I have shed my blood. 

Not fearing outward force, so shall my lungs 
Coin words till their decay against those measles. 

66 many] the populace ; cf . the Greek ol iroAAot. 

66-68 let them , . . behold themselves] let them turn their attention to me 
who am no flatterer of them, and see themselves in the mirror of my 

69 soothing] flattering. 

70 cockle] a weed which poisons growing corn. Plutarch uses the word 

in the corresponding passage. Cf L. L L., IV, iii, 379: “Sow’d 
cocMe reap’d no corn.” 

78 measles] symptoms of leprosy; the disease now known as measles 

[ 89 ] 



Which we disdain should tetter us, yet sought 
The very way to catch them. 

Bbu. You speak o’ the people, so 

As if you were a god to punish, not 
A man of their ii^rmity. 

Sic. ’T were well 

We let the people know ’t. ' 

Men. What, what? his choler? 

Cor. Choler! 

Were I as patient as the midnight sleep. 

By Jove, ’t would be my mind I 

Sic. It is a mind 

That shall remain a poison where it is, 

Not poison any further. 

Cor. Shall remain ! 

Hear you this Triton of the minnows ? mark you 
His absolute “shall”? 

Com. ’T was from the canon. 

Cor. “Shall”! 90 

O good, but most unwise patricians ! why. 

seems too mild for the context. ‘‘Mesell” a word of different deriva- 
tion, with which “measles” might easily be confused, is often found 
in pre-Shakespearean literature alike for “leprous,” “leper,” and 

79 tetter tis] cover our skin with a scab. “Rmgworm” is often called 

89 Triton] Properly a seagod, son to Neptune, whom he served 

as trumpeter. Ovid describes him in Metam., I, 333. “The 
horn and noise o’ the monster’s,” line 95, suggests some of his 

90 from the canon] contrary to the law ; an infringement of legal right. 

91 0 good] Pope’s correction of the Folio readmg 0 God I 

[ 90 ] 



You grave but reckless senators, have you thus 
Given Hydra here to choose an oflBcer, 

That with his peremptory “shall,” being but 

The horn and noise o’ the monster’s, wants not spirit 

To say he’ll turn your current in a ditch. 

And make your channel his ? If he tave power. 

The® vail your ignorance ; if none, awake 
Your dangerous lenity. If you are learn’d. 

Be not as common fools; if you are not, loo 

Let them have cushions by you. You are plebeians. 

If they be senators ; and they are no less. 

When, both your voices blended, the great’st taste 
Most palates theirs. They choose their magistrate; 

And such a one as he, who puts his “shall,” 

His popular “shall,” against a graver bench 
Than ever frown’d in Greece. By Jove himself. 

It makes the consuls base ! and my soul aches 
To know, when two authorities are up. 

Neither supreme, how soon confusion no 

93 Hydra] the many-headed monster, which is described by Ovid, Metam., 
IX, 69 seq, Cf. IV, i, 1, infra: “the beast With many heads,” and 
2 Hen. IV ^ Induction, 18 

95 the 7rumsteVs\ a reminiscence of the seagod Triton rather than of the 
many-headed Hydra ; see 1 89, suprut and note. 

98 mil your ignorance] lower, have done with your ignorance of, or in- 
difference to, the power or pretension of the mob. 

102-104 they are no less . . . theirs] The plebeians are no less than sena- 
tors when both ranks are blended to an equality, and the predominant 
flavour of the mixture smacks most of the populace In other 
words, if the upper and lower classes are to have an equal voice in 
affairs of state, the voice of the lower class will predominate 
109 are up] are in ofl5ce. 

[ 91 ] 


ACT ni 

May enter ’twixt the gap of both and take 
The one by the other. 

Com. Well, on to the market-place. 

Cor. Whoever gave that counsel, to give forth , 
The corn o’ the storehouse gratis, as ’t was used 
Sometime in Gr^e, — 

Men. Well, well, no more of that. 

Cor. Though there the people had more absolute 

I say, they nourish’d disobedience, fed 
The ruin of the state. 

Bru. Why, shall the people give 

One that speaks thus their voice ? 

Cor. I’ll give my reasons. 

More worthier than their voices. They know the corn 
Was not our recompense, resting well assured i*i 

They ne’er did service for ’t : being press’d to the war. 
Even when the navel of the state was touch’d. 

They would not thread the gates. This kind of service 
Did not deserve corn gratis : being i’ the war. 

Their mutinies and revolts, wherein they show’d 
Most valour, spoke not for them : the accusation 
Which they have often made against the senate. 

All cause unborn, could never be the native 

121 our recompense] a reward given by us. 

123 when the navel . . . touched] when the vital part of the state was 

124 thread] pass through. 

1^9 AU cause unborn] With no shadow of justification. 

native] origin, source. ‘‘Native” here means ‘‘natural parent” or 
“cause of birth.” The usage is rare, though the word is frequently 

[ 93 ] 



OJ our so frank donation. Well, what then ? iso 

How shall this bosom multiplied digest 
The senate’s courtesy ? Let deeds express 
, What’s like to be their words: “We did request it; 

We are the greater poll, and in true fear 
They gave us our demands.” Thus we debase 
The nature of our seats, and make the rabble 
Call our cares fears ; which will in time 
Break ope the locks o’ the senate, and bring in 
The crows to peck the eagles. 

Men. Come, enough. 

Bru. Enough, with over measure. 

Cor. No, take more: i40 

What may be sworn by, both divine and human. 

Seal what I end withal ! This double worship, 

Wliere one part does disdain with cause, the other 
Insult without all reason ; where gentry, title, wisdom. 
Cannot conclude but by the yea and no 

found for native place or country. Motive has been suggested in its 

131 bosom multiplied] multitudinous bosom, heart of the many-headed 
people. Cf LeaVf V, iii, 50: “To pluck the common bosom on his 
side ” Thus the Folios. Dyce ingeniously suggested bisson multi- 
tude. Cf. II, i, 59, supra. 

132-133 Let deeds . . . words] Let their past acts indicate what they are 
likely to say. 

the greater poll] the majority. 

135-136 debase . . . seats] degrade the character of our position. 

141-142 What may be sworn by . . vnthal] May everything divine and 

human, which can give force to an oath, confirm the truth of my con- 
cluding words 

145 conclude] take a decision. 

[ 93 ] 


ACT m 

Of general ignorance, — it must omit 

Heal necessities, and give way the while 

To unstable slightness; purpose so barr’d, it follows, 

Nothing is done to purpose. Therefore, beseech you, — • 

You that will bg less fearful than discreet; 150 

That love the fundamental part of state 

More than you doubt the change on ’t ; that prefer 

A noble life before a long, and wish 

To jump a body with a dangerous physic 

That ’s sure of death without it, — at once pluck out 

The multitudinous tongue; let them not lick 

The sweet which is their poison. Your dishonour 

Mangles true judgement and bereaves the state 

Of that integrity which should become ’t; 

Not having the power to do the good it would, leo 

For the ill which doth control ’t. 

Bru. Has said enough. 

Sic. Has spoken like a traitor, and shall answer 
As traitors do. 

Cor. Thou wretch, despite o’erwhelm thee ! 

146 general ignorance^ vulgar ignorance. 

148-149 purpose . . . purpose^ When the good design is so baulked, it 
follows that no useful act is performed. There is a slight quibble on 
two shades of meaning in the word “ purpose.” 

151-152 Thai love the fundaTnental part . . . change on You who have 
affection for the genuine interest of the state in larger measure 
than you have fear of the revolution (which may destroy the 

154 jump] expose to hazard. 

159 integrity] soundness. 

163 despite] hate. 

[ 94 ] 



What should the people do with these bald tribunes r 
On whom depending, their obedience fails 
To the greater bench : in a rebellion, 

When what ’s not meet, but what must be, was law. 

Then were they chosen : in a better hour. 

Let what is meet be said it must be meet. 

And throw their power i’ the dust. 170 

Beu. Manifest treason ! 

Sic. This a consul ? no. 

Beu. The sediles, ho ! 

Enter an iEdile 

Let him be apprehended. 

Sic. Go, call the people : [Exit kldik.] in whose 
name myself 

Attach thee as a traitorous innovator, 

A foe to the public weal : obey, I charge thee. 

And follow to thine answer. 

Coe. Hence, old goat! 

Senatoes, &c. We’ll surety him. 

Com. Aged sir, hands off. 

164 bald] paltry, witless. Cf. 1 Hen. IV, I, iii, 65: “This bald unjointed 

166 To the greater bench] To magistrates in higher p>osition. 

169 Let what ... be meet] Let it be said by you that what is meet to be 
done must be done. 

172 cedUee] “tediles plebeii,” servants of the tribunes, who made arrests at 
their bidding and carried out death sentences Of later date and 
higher rank were the “sediles curules,” city officers who had control 
of the streets, buildings, games, baths, and the like. 

[ 96 ] 


ACT m 

Coe. Hence, rotten thing! or I shall shake thy 

Out of thy garments. 

Sic. Help, ye citizens ! 

Enter a rabble of Citizens, vyith the ^Ediles 

Men. On both sides more respect. ‘ iso 

Sic. Here ’s he that would take from you all your 

Beu. Seize him, aediles I 

Citizens. Down with him ! down with him ! 

Senators, &c. Weapons, weapons, weapons ! 

[They all bustle about Coriolanus, crying, 
“Tribunes ! ” “Patricians ! ” “ Citizens ! ” “What, ho I ” 
“Sicinius!” “Brutus!” “Coriolanus!” “Citizens!” 
“Peace, peace, peace !” “Stay! hold! peace!” 

Men. Wliat is about to be ? I am out of breath. 
Confusion’s near. I cannot speak. You, tribunes 
To the people ! Coriolanus, patience ! iso 

Speak, good Sicinius. 

Sic. Hear me, people ; peace ! 

Citizens. Let’s hear our tribune: peace! — Speak, 
speak, speak. 

Sic. You are at point to lose your liberties: 

Marcius would have all from you ; Marcius, 

Whom late you have named for consul. 

Men. Fie, fie, fie ! 

This is the way to kindle, not to quench. 

189 YoUt tribunes] The verb “speak” is obviously understood. 
194 point] on the point, about. 

[ 96 ] 



First Sen. To unbuild the city, and to lay all flat. 

Sic. What is the city but the people ? 

Citizens. True, 

The people are the city. 200 

Bru. By the consent of all, we were establish’d 
The people’s magistrates. 

Citizens. You so remain. 

Men. And so are like to do. 

Com. That is the way to lay the city flat. 

To bring the roof to the foundation, 

'And bury all which yet distinctly ranges. 

In heaps and piles of ruin. 

Sic. This deserves death. 

Bru. Or let us stand to our authority. 

Or let us lose it.- We do here pronounce. 

Upon the part o’ the people, in whose power *10 

We were elected theirs, Marcius is worthy 
Of present death. 

Sic. Therefore lay hold of him ; 

Bear him to the rock Tarpeian, and from thence 
Into destruction cast him. 

Bru. .^diles, seize him ! 

Citizens. Yield, Marcius, yield ! 

Men. Hear me one word; 

Beseech you, tribunes, hear me but a word. 

jEdiles. Peace, peace ! 

206 distinctly ranges^ is ranged in due order, is disposed in regular line 
or order. 

218 the rock Tarjiciar}^ the precipice on the Capitol whence criminals were 
flung and killed. 

7 [97] 


ACT m 

Men. [To Brutus] Be that you seem, truly your 
country’s friend, 

And temperately proceed to what you would 
Thus violently redress. . 

Bru. , Sir, those cold ways, «20 

That seem like prudent helps, are very poisonous 
Where the disease is violent. Lay hands upon him. 
And bear him to the rock. 

Cor. No, I ’ll die here. [Drawing his sword. 

There ’s some among you have beheld me fighting : 
Come, try upon yourselves what you have seen me. ‘ 
Men. Down with that sword ! Tribunes, withdraw 

Bru. Lay hands upon him. 

Men. Help Marcius, help. 

You that be noble; help him, young and old ! 

Citizens. Down with him, down with him ! 

[In this mutiny, the Tribunes, the Mdiles, 
and the People, are beat in. 
Men. Go, get you to your house; be gone, 
away ! 

All will be naught else. 

Sec. Sen. Get you gone. 

Com. Stand fast; 

We have as many friends as enemies. 

Men. Shall it be put to that ? 

First Sen. The gods forbid ! 

220 those cold ways] those dispassionate methods. 

231 Standfast] llius the Folios. Warburton with some justice tranafeired 
the speech to Coriolanus. 

[ 98 ] 



I prithee, noble friend, home to thy house; 

L^ve us to cure this cause. 

Men. For ’t is a sore upon us 

You cannot tent yourself : be gone, beseech you. 

Com. Come, sir, along with us. 

Cob. I would they were barbarians — as they 
• are. 

Though in Rome litter’d — not Romans — as they 
are not. 

Though calved i’ the porch o’ the Capitol, — 

• Men. Begone: 

Put not your worthy rage into your tongue : e4i 

One time will owe another. 

Cor. On fair ground 

I could beat forty of them. 

Men. I could myself 

Take up a brace o’ the best of them; yea, the two 

Com. But now ’t is odds beyond arithmetic ; 

And manhood is call’d foolery, when it stands 
Against a falling fabric. Will you hence 
Before the tag return ? whose rage doth rend 

236 tent\ probe with a view to curing; a familiar term in surgery. 

240-242 Be gone . . , owe arvothef] The Folios make these words part of 
Coriolanus’ preceding speech. Steevens seems to have first assigned 
them to “Menenius,” to whom they are clearly appropriate. 

242 Om time , . . another] One time will compensate for another; our 
time of triumph is coming. 

245 beyond arithmetic] past calculation. 

248 ike tag] the rabble; commonly associated with the phrase “tag, rag 
and bobtail. ” Cf. JuL Cces., I, ii, 255 : “the tag rag people.” 

[ 99 ] 


ACT m 

Like interrupted waters, and o’erbear 
What they are used to bear. 

Men. Pray you, be gone : mo 

I’ll try whether my old wit be in request , 

With those that have but little: this must be patch’d 
With cloth of any colour. 

Com. Nay, come away. . 

[Exeunt Coriolanus, Comdnius, and others. 
First Patrician. This man has marr’d his fortune. 
Men. His nature is too noble for the world : 

He would not flatter Neptune for his trident, . 

Or Jove for ’s power to thunder. His heart ’s his 
mouth : 

What his breast forges, that his tongue must vent; 

And, being angry, does forget that ever 

He heard the name of death. [A noise within, mo 

Here ’s goodly work ! 

Sec. Pat. I would they were a-bed ! 

Men. I would they were in Tiber ! What, the ven- 

Could he not speak ’em fair? 

Re-enter Barrms and SiciNitTB, with the rabble 

Sic. Where is this viper, 

That would depopulate the city, and 
Be every man himself ? 

249-250 Like interrupted waters . . . bear] Like waters whose flow is 
forcibly obstructed, so that in the overflow they overwhelm whatever 
is on their surface. Cf. Two Gent., II, vii, 25-26: “The current . . . 
beipg stopp’d, impatiently doth rage.” 

[ 100 ] 



Men. You worthy tribunes — 

Sic. He shall be thrown down the Tarpeian rock 
With rigorous hands : he hath resisted law, 

And therefore law shall scorn him further trial 
Than the severity of the public power, 

Which he so sets at nought. 

FiRsy CiT. He shall well know 270 

The noble tribunes are the people’s mouths, 

And we their hands. 

Citizens. He shall, sure on ’t. 

Men. Sir, sir, — 

Sic. Peace! 

Men. Do not ciy havoc, where you should but hunt 
With modest warrant. 

Sic. Sir, how comes ’t that you 

Have holp to niake this rescue? 

Men. Hear me speak: 

As I do know the consul’s worthiness. 

So can I name his faults, — 

Sic. Consul ! what consul ? 

Men. The consul Coriolanus. 

Bru. He consul ! 280 

Citizens. No, no, no, no, no. 

Men. If, by the tribunes’ leave, and yours, good 

I may be heard, I would crave a word or two; 

275 cry havoc\ cry the signal for “no quarter,” for indiscriminate 
slaughter. Cf. Jul. Coss., Ill, i, 274: *'Cry havoc^ and let slip the 
dogs of war.” “Havoc” seems to represent an ancient form of 
“hawk,” and the phrase seems to have originated among those 
engaged in the sport of falconry. 

[ 101 ] 


ACT m 

The which shall turn you to no further harm 
Than so much loss of time. 

Sic. Speak briefly then; 

For we are peremptory to dispatch , 

This viperous traitor: to eject him hence 
Were but one danger, and to keep him here 
Our certain death : therefore it is decreed 
He dies to-night. 

Men. Now the good gods forbid *9o 

That our renowned Rome, whose gratitude 
Towards her deserved children is enroll’d • 

In Jove’s own book, like an unnatural dam 
Should now eat up her own ! 

Sic. He ’s a disease that must be cut away. 

Men. O, he ’s a limb that has but a disease; 

Mortal, to cut it off ; to cure it, easy. 

What has he done to Rome that ’s worthy death ? 
Killing our enemies, the blood h§ hath lost — 

Which, I dare vouch, is more than that he hath soo 
By many an ounce — he dropp’d it for his country ; 

And what is left, to lose it by his country 
Were to us all that do ’t and suffer it 
A brand to the end o’ the world. 

Sic. This is clean kam. 

284 Uim you to] expose you to. 

288 one] complete, whole. Thus the Folios; Theobald substituted our, 
292 deserved] deserving. 

297 Mortal] Fatal, deadly. 

304 brand] sc, of infamy. 

dean Jcam] These words are synonymous with “merely (i.s., absolutely) 

[ 102 ] 


Beu, Merely. awry: when he did love his country. 

It honour’d him. 

Men. The service of the foot 

, Being once gangrened, is not then respected 
For what before it was. 

Beu. We ’ll hear no more. 

Pursue him to his house, and pluck him thence; 

Lest his infection, being of catching nature, sio 

Spread further. 

Men. One word more, one word. 

This tiger-footed rage, when it shall find 
The harm of unscann’d swiftness, will, too late. 

Tie leaden pounds to’s heels. Proceed by process; 

Lest parties, as he is beloved, break out. 

And sack great Rome with Romans. 

Beu. If it were so — 

Sic. What do ye talk ? 

Have we not had a taste of his obedience ? 

Our sediles smote? ourselves resisted? Come. 

Men. Consider this : he has been bred i’ the wars no 
Since he could draw a sword, and is ill school’d 
In bolted language; meal and bran together 

awry” which immediately follow them. “Kam” is an old Celtic word 
for ” crooked,” which survives in the river-name Cam in Cambridge. 
S06-308] The service of the foot . . . before it was] Menenius is here ironi- 
cally adopting the tribune’s own line of argument, doubtless with a 
view to reducing it to absurdity, when he is interrupted by the im- 
patient Brutus Hanmer would give the speech to the tribune 
Sicinius; others would make it part of Brutus’ preceding remark. 

313 unscann*d swiftness] inconsiderate or rash haste. 

322 boUei] refined, sifted. 

[ 103 ] 


ACT m 

He throws without distinction. Give me leave. 

I’ll go to him, and undertake to bring him 
Where he shall answer, by a lawful form. 

In peace, to his utmost peril. , 

Fihst Sen. Noble tribunes. 

It is the humane way : the other course 
Will prove too bloody ; and the end of it 
Unknown to the beginning. 

Sic. Noble Menenius, 

Be you then as the people’s oflBcer. sso 

Masters, lay down your weapons. 

Bru. Go not home. 

Sic. Meet on the market-place. We’ll attend you 

Where, if you bring not Marcius, we’ll proceed 
In our first way. 

Men. I’ll bring him to you. 

[To the Senators] Let me desire your company: he 
must come. 

Or what is worst will follow. 

First Sen. Pray you, let’s to him. 



Enter Cobiolanus vrith Patricians 

Cor. Let them pull all about mine ears ; present me 
Death on the wheel, or at w’ild horses’ heels; 

Or pile ten hills on the Tarpeian rock. 

That the precipitation might down stretch 

[ 104 ] 



Below the beam of sight; yet will I still 
Be thus to them. 

A Patrician. You do the nobler. 

Cor. I muse my mother 
Does not approve me further, who was wont 
To call them woollen vassals, things created 
To buy and sell with groats, to show bare heads lo 
In congregations, to yawn, be still and wonder, 

When one but of my ordinance stood up 
To speak of peace or war. 


I talk of you : 

Why did you wish me milder ? would you have me 
False to my nature ? Rather say, I play 
The man I am. 

VoL. O, sir, sir, sir, 

I would have had you put your power well on. 

Before you had worn it out. 

Cor. Let go. 

VoL. You might have been enough the man you are, 
With striving less to be so : lesser had been *o 

The thwartings of your dispositions, if 

5 beam of 8igh£\ ray of sight, range of vision. 

7 miAtfe] wonder. 

9 woollen va8saU\ coarse-clothed fellows. Cf. Midi. N, Dr., HI, i, 68: 
“hempen home-spuns. ’* 
ordinance] order, rank. 

21 thwartings of your disposiiion^ Theobald’s correction of the Folio 
reeding things of your dispositions. 

[ 106 ] 



You had not show’d them how ye were disposed, 

Ere they lack’d power to cross you. 

Cor. Let them hang. 

VoL. Ay, and bum too. 

Enter Menenittb with the Senators 

Men. Come, come, you have been too rough, sqme- 
thing too rough; 

You must return and mend it. 

First Sen. There *s no remedy; 

Unless, by not so doing, our good city 
Cleave in the midst, and perish. 

VoL. Pray, be counsell’d: 

I have a heart as little apt as yours. 

But yet a brain that leads my use of anger 
To better vantage. 

Men. Well said, noble woman ! 

Before he should thus stoop to the herd, but that 
The violent fit o’ the time craves it as physic 
For the whole state, I would put mine armour on, 
Which I can scarcely bear. 

Cor. What must I do ? 

Men. Return to the tribunes. 

24 Ay, and bum too] This is an involuntary outburst of Volunmia’s horror 
of the mob. Some editors object needlessly that the words are incon- 
sistent with the speaker’s plea for patience. 

29 apt] sc. to submit, submissive. Thus the Folios. Many changes have 
been suggested. But though the expression is elliptical, the context 
makes the meaning plain. 

32 the herd] Theobald’s correction of the Folio reading ih* heart. Coriola- 
nus has twice already applied the word “herd ” to the rabble of Rome. 
I, iv, 81, and III, i, 83, supra. 

[ 106 ] 



•* Cor. Well, what then ? what then ? 

Men. Repent what you have spoke. 

Cob. For them ! I cannot do it to the gods ; 

Must I then do ’t to them ? 

VoL. You are too absolute; 

Though therein you can never be too noble, 40 

BuU when extremities speak. I have heard you say, 
Honour and policy, like unsever’d friends, 
r the war do grow together : grant that, and tell me, 

In peace what each of them by the other lose. 

That they combine not there. 

Cor. Tush, tush ! 

Men. a good demand. 

VoL. If it be honour in your wars to seem 
The same you are not, which, for your best ends. 

You adopt your policy, how is it less or worse. 

That it shall hold companionship in peace 

With honour, as in war, since that to both eo 

It stands in like request ? 

Cor. Why force you this ? 

VoL. Because that now it lies you on to speak 
To the people ; not by your own instruction. 

Nor by the matter which your heart prompts you. 

But with such words that are but roted in 
Your tongue, though but bastards and syllables 

8&-41 You are too absolute . . . extremities speak] You are too self-con- 
fident; your resolution and self-confidence can never be out of place 
in a noble heart, except in the presence of desperate dangers. 

61 force] press, urge. 

65 roted in Your tongue] learnt by rote, not uttered spcoitaneously. 

[ 107 ] 


ACT m 

Of no allowance to your bosom’s truth. ♦ 

Now, this no more ^shonours you at all 
Than to take in a town with gentle words. 

Which else would put you to your fortune and 8ft 

The hazard of much blood. 

I would dissemble with my nature, where 
My fortunes and my friends at stake required <• 

I should do so in honour. I am in this, 

Your wife, your son, these senators, the nobles ; 

And you will rather show our general louts 
How you can frown than spend a fawn upon ’em. 

For the inheritance of their love and safeguard 
Of what that want might ruin. 

Men. Noble lady ! 

Come, go with us ; speak fair : you may salve so, 70 
Not what is dangerous present, but the loss 
Of what is past. 

VoL. I prithee now, my son. 

Go to them, with this bonnet in thy hand ; 

And t\xus far liaving stretch’ d it — here be with them — 

57 Of no aUowanee . . . truth] Without the authority or approbation of 
the truth which is innate in your heart. 

59 take in] conquer, subdue. Cf. I, ii, 24, supra. 

60 ptd you to your fortune] make you risk or imperil your fortune. 

64-65 I am in this . . . nobles] I am spokesman in this matter for your 

wife, etc. 

66 our general louts] our common people. 

69 that want] the want of their love, their enmity. 

71 Not what is] Not only, not merely, what is. Cf. Ill, iii, 98, infra, 

73 this bonnet] Volumnia points to Coriolanus’ head-gear. 

74 here be with them] here set yourself on a level with them, show them 


[ 108 ] 



'i'hy knee bussing the stones — for in such business 
Action is eloquence, and the eyes of the ignorant 
More learned than the ears — waving thy head, 

Which often, thus, correcting thy stout heart. 

Now humble as the ripest mulberry 

That will not hold the handling: or say to them, so 

Thou art their soldier, and being bred in broils 

Hast not the soft way which, thou dost confess. 

Were fit for thee to use, as they to claim. 

In asking their good loves; but thou wilt frame 
Thyself, forsooth, hereafter theirs, so far 
As thou hast power and person. 

Men. This but done. 

Even as she speaks, why, their hearts were yours; 

For they haye pardons, being ask’d, as free 
As words to little purpose. 

VoL. Prithee now, 

Go, and be ruled : although I know thou hadst rather 9o 

75 bussing^ kissing. 

77 waving] gently moving or bowing. 

78 Which often, thns,] This is the punctuation of the Folios, and is dif- 

ficult. Only one comma is required, and should follow which, 

79 humhle] This word is here the imperative of the verb “to humble,** 

and governs as its object “Which** (i. e., the head), in the previous 

79-80 the ripest mulberry . . . handling] The fully-ripe mulberry is de- 
tached from the tree at the slightest touch of the hand. 

86 pouter and person] individual or personal capacity. 

88-89 they have pardons . . . little purpose] they are prone to grant 
pardon when asked as readily as to speak words of no particular 

[ 109 ] 


ACT in 

Follow thine enemy in a fiery gulf 
Than flatter him in a bower. 

Elder CoumiuB . 

• Here is Cominius. 

Com. I have been i’ the market-place ; and, sir, ’t is fit 
You make strong party, or defend yourself 
By calmness or by absence : all ’s in anger. 

Men. Only fair speech. 

Com. I think ’t will serve, if he 

Can thereto frame his spirit. 

VoL. He must, and will. 

Prithee now, say you will, and go about it. 

Cor. Must I go show them my unbarb’d sconce? 
must 1, 

With my base tongue, give to my noble heart lOo 

A lie, that it must bear ? Well, I will do ’t : 

Yet, were there but this single plot to lose. 

This mould of Marcius, they to dust should grind it. 
And throw ’t against the wind. To the market-place ! 
You have put me now to such a part, which never 
I shall discharge to the life. 

Com. Come, come, we ’ll prompt you. 

VoL. I prithee now, sweet son, as thou hast said 
My praises made thee first a soldier, so. 

94 You make drong pa%] You collect a strong body of supporters. 

09 uvbarb'd iconce] uncovered head. “Barbed” (or “barded”) is often 
found in the sense of “armoured” or “covered with armour.” Cf. 
Rich. Ill, I, i, 10: “barbed steeds.” 
lOS this single plot] this sole piece of earth, my own mere body only. 

[ 110 ] 



To have my praise for this, perform a part 
Thou hast not done before. 

CoK. Well, I must do ’t; no 

•Away, my disposition, and possess me 
Some harlot’s spirit ! my throat of war be turn’d, 

Which quired with my drum, into a pipe 

Small Us an eunuch, or the virgin voice 

That babies lulls asleep ! the smiles of knaves 

Tent in my cheeks, and schoolboys’ 'tears take up 

The glasses of my sight ! a beggar’s tongue 

Make motion through my lips, and my arm’d knees. 

Who bow’d but in my stirrup, bend like his 

That hath received an alms ! I will not do ’t ; i*o 

Lest I surcease to honour mine own truth. 

And by my body’s action teach my mind 
A most inherent baseness. 

VoL. At thy choice then: 

To beg of thee, it is my more dishonour 
Than thou of them. Come all to ruin : let 
Thy mother rather feel thy pride than fear 
Thy dangerous stoutness, for I mock at death 
With as big heart as thou. Do as thou list. 

Hi Some harlot’s spirit] Some ribald’s spirit. “Harlot” as a term of 
contempt was applied to men as well as to women. Cf. Com. 
of Errors, V, i, 205: “she with harlots feasted in my house.” 

113 quired] played in concert. 

116 Tent in .. . take wp] encamp, lodge in . . . occupy. 

121 surcease to honour] cease to honour, give over respecting. 

125’-127 let Thy mother . , . stoutness] let thy mother rather suffer the 
worst from thy pride than continue to live in nervous fear of thy danger- 
ous obstinacy. Volumnia deprecates the uncertainty of the issue. 



Thy valiantness was mine, thou suck’dst it from me, 

But owe thy pride thyself. 

Cor. Pray, be content: lao 

Mother, I am going to the market-place; 

Chide me no rnore. I’ll mountebank their loves. 

Cog their hearts from them, and come home beloved 
Of all the trades in Rome. Look, I am going:' 
Commend me to my wife. I’ll return consul; 

Or never trust to what my tongue can do 
I’ the way of flattery further. 

VoL. Do your will. [Exit. 

Com. Away ! the tribunes do attend you : arm your- 

To answer mildly ; for they are prepared 

With accusations, as I hear, more strong 140 

Than are upon you yet. 

Cob. The word is “mildly.” Pray you, let us go: 

Let them accuse me by invention, I 
Will answer in mine honour. 

Men. Ay, but mildly. 

Cor. Well, mildly be it then. Mildly ! [Exeunt. 

130 owe\ Thus the First Folio. The later Folios read own, which is the 
meaning of owe here. 

132 7 'U mountebank their loves] I *li play the conjurer and thereby get their 

138 Cog] Get by cheating. 

[ 112 ] 





• Enter Sicmiua and Brutus 

Brtt. In this point charge him home, that he affects 
Tyrannical power: if he evade us there, 

Enforce him with his envy to the people; 

And that the spoil got on the Antiates 
Was ne’er distributed. 

Enter an iSdile 

What, will he come ? 

AEd. He ’s coming. 

Bru. How accompanied ? 

^D. With old Menenius and those senators 
That always favour’d him. 

Sic. Have you a catalogue 

Of all the voices that we have procured, 

Set down by the poll ? 

iEn. I have ; ’t is ready. 

Sic. Have you collected them by tribes ? 

3 Enforce him with his envy] Press him hard with, urge against him, 
his hatred. Cf. II, iii, 216, supra: Enforce his pride.” 

8-11 Have you a catalogue , * . by tribes] According to Plutarch there 
were two methods of voting for public officers, by tribes (or local 
districts) with a widely distributed and democratic suffrage, and by 
centuries (or military divisions) with a more restricted and more aris- 
tocratic suffrage. The former method was justly held by the tribune 
to give the advantage to the populace, and the latter to the upper 
classes. The tribune consequently adopted the vote by tribes. North 
in translating Plutarch interpolated the remark that in voting by tribes 
“voices were numbered by the polls.” This phrase is alluded to by 
the tribune Sicinius when he asks the aedile about “a catalogue of 
8 [ 113 ] 



Mx). I have. 

Sic. Assemble presently the people hither: 

And when they hear me say “It shall be so 
I’ the right and strength o’ the commons,” be ih. 

For death, for fine, or banishment, then let them. 

If I say fine, cry “Fine,” if death, cry “Death,*” 
Insisting on the old prerogative 
And power i’ the truth o’ the cause. 

AId. I shall inform them. 

Bbu. And when such time they have begun to cry, • 
Let them not cease, but with a din confused *o 

Enforce the present execution 
Of what we chance to sentence. 

AId. Very well. 

Sic. Make them be strong, and ready for this hint. 
When we shall hap to give ’t them. 

Bru. Go about it. 

[Exit Mdile. 

Put him to choler straight: he hath been used 
Ever to conquer and to have his worth 
Of contradiction : being once chafed, he cannot 
Be rein’d again to temperance ; then he speaks 

all the voices ... set down by the poll.” As a matter of fact the 
voting “by poll” was an essential preliminary in both voting methods; 
the tribe or century each alike cast its single collective vote, only 
after its members had been polled individually and the determining 
plurality ascertained. Shakespeare follows North in the error of as- 
sociating “ votes by poll ” distinctively with the tribune’s favoured 
method of voting by tribes. 

have his worth Of contradiction] gain what he thinks worth disput- 
ing about. 

[ 114 ] 



What ’s in his heart; and that is there which looks 
T^th us to break hb neck. 

Sic. Well, here he comes. so 

Enter C!oBiOLANTrs, Menenius, and CoMmiXTS, with Senators and 

Patricians * 


Men. Calmly, I do beseech you. 

Coe. Ay, as an ostler, that for the poorest piece 
Will bear the knave by the volume. The honour’d 

Keep Rome in safety, and the chairs of justice 
Supplied with worthy men ! plant love among ’s ! 

Throng our large temples with the shows of peace. 

And not our streets with war ! 

First Sen. Amen, amen. 

Men. a noble wish. 

Re-enter ^Edile, with Citizens 

Sic. Draw near, ye people. 

iEo. List to your tribunes ; audience : peace, I say ! 40 
Cor. First, hear me speak. 

Both Tri. Well, say. Peace, ho ! 

Cor. Shall I be charged no further than this present ? 
Must all determine here ? 

*9-30 which looks With t«] which seems likely with our aid. 

88-33 for the poorest piece . . . volume] for the smallest coin will stand 
being called knave often enough to fill a volume. 

86 Throng] Theobald’s correction of the Folio misreading Through, 
shows] emblems. 

[ 118 ] 



Sic. I do demand, 

If you submit you to the people’s voices. 

Allow their officers, and are content 
To suffer lawful censure for such faults 
As shall be proved upon you. 

Cor. ‘ I am content. 

Men. Lo, citizens, he says he is content: < 

The warlike service he has done, consider; think 
Upon the wounds his body bears, which show so 

Like graves i’ the holy churchyard. 

Cor. Scratches with briers. 

Scars to move laughter only. 

Men. Consider further, 

That when he speaks not like a citizen, 

You find him like a soldier: do not take 
His rougher accents for malicious sounds, 

But, as I say, such as become a soldier 
Rather than envy you. 

Com. Well, well, no more. 

Cor. What is the matter 
That being pass’d for consul with full voice 
I am so dishonour’d that the very hour w 

You take it off again? 

Sic. Answer to us. 

Cor. Say, then : ’t is true, I ought so. 

Sic. We charge you, that you have contrived to take 
From Rome a 1 season’d office, and to wind 

55 accents] Theobald’s corrections of the Folio misreading Actions, 

57 CTwy you] malign or spite you, 

63 contrived] planned, plotted. 

64 season*d] established by time and custom 

[ 116 ] 

godrs m 


Yourself into a power tyrannical ; 

For which you are a traitor to the people. 

Cob. How! traitor! 

t Men. Nay, temperately ; your promise. 

Cor. The fires i’ the lowest hell fold-in the people ! 
Call me their traitor ! Thou injurious’ tribune ! 

Withift thine eyes sat twenty thousand deaths, 70 

In thy hands clutch’d as many millions, in 
Thy lying tongue both numbers, I would say 
“Thou liest” unto thee with a voice as free 
As I do pray the gods. 

Sic. Mark you this, people ? 

Citizens. To the rock, to the rock with him ! 

Sic. Peace! 

We need not put new matter to his charge: 

What you have seen him do and heard him speak. 
Beating your officers, cursing yourselves. 

Opposing laws with strokes, and here defying so 

Those whose great power must try him; even this, 

So criminal and in such capital kind. 

Deserves the extremest death. 

Bru. But since he hath 

Served well for Rome 

Cor. What do you prate of service ? 

Bru. I talk of that, that know it. 

Cor. You? , 

Men. Is this the promise that you made your mother ? 
Com. Know, I pray you, — 

69 injurious] insolent, insulting. 

71 In thy hands clutch'd] Were there clutched or grasped in thy hands. 



ACT m 

Cor. I’ll know no further: 

Let them pronounce the steep Tarpeian death. 

Vagabond exile, flajdng, pent to linger w 

But with a grain a day, I would not buy 
Their mercy at the price of one fair word, 

Nor check my courage for what they can give, 

To have ’t with saying “Good morrow.” ' 

Sic. For that he has, 

As much as in him lies, from time to time 

Envied against the people, seeking means 

To pluck away their power, as now at last 

Given hostile strokes, and that not in the presence 

Of dreaded justice, but on the ministers 

That do distribute it; in the name o’ the people, loo 

And in the power of us the tribunes, we, 

Even from this instant, banish him our city, 

In peril of precipitation 

From off the rock Tarpeian, never more 

To enter our Rome gates : i’ the people’s name, 

I say it shall be so. 

Citizens. It shall be so, it shall be so ; let him away : 
He ’s banish’d, and it shall be so. 

Com. Hear me, my masters, and my common 
friends, — 

Sic. He ’s sentenced; no more hearing. 

Com. Let me speak: 

I have been consul, and can show for Rome iii 

96 Envied against] Maligned, expressed himself with malice against. 

98 not] not only, not merely. Cf. Ill, ii, 71, supra. 

Ill for Rome] Theobald’s correction for the Folio from Rome. Cf. IV, ii, 
infra: “good man the wounds that he does bear for Rome*' 

[ 118 ] 

sosNs m 


Her enemies’ marks upon me. I do love 
My country’s good with a respect more tender. 

More holy and profound, than mine own life, 

I My dear wife’s estimate, her womb’s increase 
And treasure of my loins ; then if I would 
Speak that — 

Sic.' We know your drift : — speak what ? 

Bru. There ’s no more to be said, but he is banish’d. 
As enemy to the people and his country; 

It shall be so. 120 

Citizens. It shall be so, it shall be so. 

Cor. You common cry of curs ! whose breath I hate 
As reek o’ the rotten fens, whose loves I prize 
As the dead carcasses of unburied men 
That do corrupt my air, I banish you ; 

And here remain with your uncertainty I 
Let every feeble rumour shake your hearts ! 

Your enemies, with nodding of their plumes, 

Fan you into despair ! Have the power still 

To banish your defenders; till at length I80 

Your ignorance, which finds not till it feels. 

Making not reservation of yourselves. 

115 eitimate] reputation. 

122 common cry\ vulgar pack. Cf. IV, vi, 148, infra: “you and your cry." 

123 As reek . . . rotten fens] Cf. Tempest, 11, i, 45-46: “As if it had 
lungs, and rotten ones. Or as ’t were perfumed by a fen.” 

131 which finds not till it feels] Cf. the familiar political maxim in James 
Harrington’s Oceana, 1656 : “The people cannot see but they can feel.” 

132 Making rwt reservation of yoursdves] Making no attempt to reserve or 
preserve the means of defending yourselves. Not is Capell’s substitu- 
tion for the Folio reading hut, which would give the line the different 



ACi; m 

Still your own foes, deliver you as most 

Abated captives to some nation 

That won you without blows ! Despising, 

For you, the city, thus I turn my back : * 

There is a world elsewhere. 

{Exeunt Coriolanue, Cominius, Menemtu, Semi- 

tors and Patricians. 

iEn. The people’s enemy is gone, is gone ! 

Citizens. Our enemy is banish’d ! he is gone ! Hoo ! 

hoo ! [They all shout, and throw up their caps. 
Sic. Go, see him out at gates, and follow him, ua 
As he hath follow’d you, with all despite ; 

Give him deserved vexation. Let a guard 
Attend us through the city. 

Citizens. Come, come, let’s see him out at gates; 

The gods preserve our noble tribunes ! Come. [Exeunt. 

and less coherent sense of “only working in order to preserve your 
mere lives in the city.*’ 

134 Abated] Dejected* depressed. 

[ 180 ] 



Enter Cobiolanus, Volumnia, Vibgilia, Meneniot, Cominies, 
with the young Nobility of Rome 


a brief farewell: the beast 
With many heads butts me 
away. Nay, mother. 

Where is your ancient courage ? 
you were used 

To say extremity was the trier 
of spirits; 

That common chances common 
men could bear; 

That when the sea was calm all 
boats alike 

Show’d mastership in floating; 
fortune’s blows. 

When most struck home, being gentle wounded, craves 
A noble cunning: you were used to load me 

1-2 the beast With many heads] Cf. Ill, i, 93, supra, and ^ Hen. IF, 
Induction, 18; “the blunt monster wdh uneour^ heads." 

[ 1 « 1 ] 



With precepts that would make invincible lo 

The heart that conn’d them. 

ViB. O heavens ! O heavens ! 

Cor. Nay, I prithee, woman, — 

VoL. Now the^ red pestilence strike all trades in 

And occupations perish ! 

Cob. What, what, what! 

I shall be loved when I am lack’d. Nay, mother. 
Resume that spirit when you were wont to say. 

If you had been the wife of Hercules, 

Six of his labours you ’Id have done, and saved 
Your husband so much sweat. Cominius, 

Droop not; adieu. Farewell, my wife, my mother: «o 

I’ll do well yet. Thou old and true Menenius, 

Thy tears are salter than a younger man’s. 

And venomous to thine eyes. My sometime general 
I have seen thee stern, and thou hast oft beheld 
Heart-hardening spectacles ; tell these sad women, 

4 extremity] desperate misfortune. Thus the Second and later Polios. 
The First Folio gives the word in the plural. 

6- 7 when the sea . . . The same illustration is employed in Trotf. 

ani Cress.^ iii, 33-37. 

7- 9 fortune’s blows . . . cunning] when Fortune strikes her hardest 

blows, it requires a noble wisdom to suffer the wounds with gentle 
resignation. The language is harsh and elliptical, but the sense is 
clear. Thus the First Folio. None of the suggested emendations 
merits attention. 

13 the red pestilence] Cf. Tempest, I, ii, 364: “The red plague rid you.*' 

14 ocmipaiions] trades, callings, employment. Cf. IV, vi, 98, infra: “the 

voice of occupation*' {i, c., the working class), and Tempest, II, i, 148: 
“No occupation; all men idle.'* 

[ 18 *] 



’T is fond to wail inevitable strokes, 

As ’t is to laugh at ’em. My mother, you wot well 
My hazards still have been your solace : and 
Believe ’t not lightly — though I go alone. 

Like to a lonely dragon, that his fen so 

Makes fear’d and talk’d of more than* seen your son 
Will or exceed the common, or be caught 
With cautelous baits and practice, 

VoL, My first son. 

Whither wilt thou go ? Take good Cominius 
With thee awhile; determine on some course, 

More than a wild exposture to each chance 
That starts i’ the way before thee. 

Cor, O the gods ! 

Com, I’ll follow thee a month, devise with thee 
Where thou shalt rest, that thou mayst hear of us 
And we of thee: so, if the time thrust forth 
A cause for thy repeal, we shall not send 
O’^r the vast world to seek a single man. 

And lose advantage, which doth ever cool 
I’ the absence of the needer. 

Cor, Fare ye well : 

Thou hast years upon thee ; and thou art too full 

26 fond] foolish. 

S2 or exceed the common] either surpass or outdo the ordinaiy exploits 
h have formerly been his mother’s consolation). 

83 'xnUelousi crafty, dishonest. 
practice] tnck or stratagem. 

36 exposture] i unusual form of “exposure.” Cf. Tim. of Ath , IV, iii, 
439: “composture.” The similar form “imposture” is in common 

[ ISS] 



Of the wars’ surfeits, to go rove with one 
That’s yet unbruised: bring me but out at gate. 

Come, my sweet wife, my dearest mother, and 
My friends of noble touch, when I am forth. 

Bid me farewell, and smile. I pray you, come. 

While I remain above the ground, you shall 
Hear from me still, and never of me aught ' 

But what is like me formerly. 

Men. That ’s worthily 

As any ear can hear. Come, let ’s not weep. 

If I could shake off but one seven years 
From these old arms and legs, by the good gods, 

I ’Id with thee every foot. 

CoK. Give me thy hand: 

Come. [Exeunt. 

Enter the two Tribunes, Sicinixis and Bextttjb, with the ^Edile 

Sic. Bid them all home; he’s gone, and we’ll no 

The nobility are vex’d, whom we see have sided 
In his behalf. 

Bbu. Now we have shown our power, 

Let us seem humbler after it is done 
Than when it was a-doing. 

46 the ware* surfeits] excesses of war, the rough usages of war. 

49 of noble touch] of true metal; au allusion to the touchstone, whereby 
metals are tested. Cf. Tim. of Ath., IV, iii, 387, where gold is called 
the ** touch of hearts.” 


scEiirs II 


Sic. Bid them home : 

Say their great enemy is gone, and they 
Stand in their ancient strength. 

Beu. Dismiss them home. [ExU JEdih. 

Here comes his mother. 

Ertter Volumnia, VraoiLiA, and Meneniub 
Sic.’ Let ’s not meet her. 

Beu. Why ? 

Sic. They say she ’s mad. 

Beu. They have ta’en note of us ; keep on your way : 
VoL. O, ye ’re well met ; the hoarded plague o’ the gods 
Requite your love ! 

Men. Peace, peace; be not so loud. 

Voir. If that I could for weeping, you should hear, — 
Nay, and you shall hear some. [To Brutus] Will you be 

Vie. [To Sxctmua] You shall stay too: I would I had 
the power 

To say so to my husband. 

Sic. Are you mankind ? 

VoL. Ay, fool; is that a shame? Note but this fool. 
Was not a man my father? Hadst thou foxship 

11-12 the hoarded flague . your lovef] Cf. Lear, II, iv, 160-161 : “All 
the stored veivgeances 0 / heaven fall On her ungrateful top/* 

16-17 Are you mankind? . . . shame?] “Mankind** is first used in the 
sense of “man,** “masculine creature lacking feminine gentleness.'* 
Cf. Wint Tale, II, iii, 67: “.4 mankind witchT* Volumnia in her retort 
credits the word with the more general meaning of a “human being.** 
17 foxship] the mean cunning of an ungrateful fox. The form seems 
unknown elsewhere, though “foxy** in the sense of “crafty** is not 
uncommon. Foxes were held to be typical of ingratitude. Cf. 
Lear, III, vii, 28: “Ingrateful fox I** 

[186 3 


a<5t jv 

To banish him that struck more blows for Rome 
Than thou hast spoken words ? 

Sic. O blessed heavens ! «o 

VoL. Moe noble blows than ever thou wise words; ,, 
And for Rome’s good. I’ll tell thee what; yet go: 

Nay, but thou shall stay too: I would my son 
Were in Arabia, and thy tribe before him. 

His good sword in his hand. 

Sic. What then? 

ViR. What then ! 

He ’Id make an end of thy posterity. 

VoL. Bastards and all. 

Good man, the wounds that he does bear for Rome ! 
Men. Come, come, peace. 

Sic. I would he had continued to his country so 

As he began, and not unknit himself 
The noble knot he made. 

Bru. I would he had. 

VoL. “I would he had!” ’T was you incensed the 
rabble ; 

Cats, that can judge as fitly of his worth 
As I can of those mysteries which heaven 
Will not have earth to know. 

®3--24 I would my son Were in Arabia] Arabia is used generally of a 
desert country. Cf. Cymh.^ I, i, 167 : “ I would they were in Africa,** 
and Macb., Ill, iv, 104; " dare me to the desert with thy sword.*’ 
fE8 Good man for Rome!] Cf, III, iii, 111, supra, 

31 unknit himself] himself untied. Cf. 1 Hen, IV ^ V, i, 15-16; “will you 
again unknit This churlish knctf** 

84 Cats] This word of reproach, which Volumnia addresses to the tri- 
bunes, was a common term of reproach. Cf. All's Well^ IV, iii, 222; 
“now he’s a co^ to me.” 

[ 1 * 6 ] 



Sbu. Pray, let us go. 

VoL. Now, pray, sir, get you gone : 

You have done a brave deed. Ere you go, hear this : 
•As far as doth the Capitol exceed 
The meanest house in Rome, so far my son — 4o 

This lady’s husband here, this, do you see ? — 

Whom’ you have banish’d, does exceed you all. 

Bru. Well, well, we’ll leave you. 

Sic. Why stay we to be baited 

With one that wants her wits ? 

• VoL. Take my prayers with you. 

[Exeunt Tribunes 

I would the gods had nothing else to do 
But to confirm my curses ! Could I meet ’em 
But once a-day, it would unclog my heart 
Of. what lies heavy to ’t. 

Men. You have told them home; 

And, by my troth, you have cause. You ’ll sup with me ? 

VoL. Anger’s my meat; I sup upon myself, so 

And so shall starve with feeding. Come, let ’s go: 
Leave this faint puling, and lament as I do, 

- In anger, Juno-like. Come, come, come. 

[Exeunt Vol. and Vir. 
Men. Fie, fie, fie ! [Exit. 

48-44 hailed With one] teaMd or taunted by one. 

46 confirm] ratify, put into effect. 
meet ’em] meet the tribunes. 

48 You have told them home] You have spoken out plainly; you have 
driven your words home. Cf. U, ii, 101, supra: “I cannot epeak him 
home” and III, iii, 1 ; "charge him home.” 

H faint piding] weak whinmg. 






EtUer a Roman and a Volsce, meeting 

Rom. I know you well, sir, and you know me : your 
name, I think, is Adrian. 

VoLS. It is so, sir: truly, I have forgot you. 

Rom. I am a Roman ; and my services are, as you , 
are, against ’em : know you me yet ? 

VoLS. Nicanor? no. 

Rom. The same, sir. 

VoLS. You had more beard when I last saw you ; but 
your favour is well appeared by your tongue. What’s 
the news in Rome ? I have a note from the Volscian lo 
state, to find you out there: you have well saved me 
a day’s journey. 

Rom. There hath been in Rome strange insurrections ; 
the people against the senators, patricians and nobles. 

VoLS, Hath been! is it ended then ? Our state thinks 
not so : they are in a most warlike preparation, and hope 
to come upon them in the heat of their division. 

0 your favour . . . fongue\ ^our identity is quite recognisable in your 
speech. “Favour” means “ face” or “personal appearance.” “Ap- 
peared” has the significance of “made clear or obvious.” Cf. Cymb., 
HI, iv, 144: “to appear itself,” and Meat, for Meat., II, iv, 20-30: 
“where their untaught love Must needs appear (i. e., bring to light) 
offence.” Appeared is the Folio reading, for which other words in- 
dudlag affeer’d (t. e., confirmed) and approved hare been substituted 
by the editors. But no change seems essential. 

[ 1 * 8 ] 



Rom. The main blaze of it is past, but a small thing 
would make it flame again : for the nobles receive so to 
heart the banishment of that worthy Coriolanus, that so 
they are in a ripe aptness to take all power from the 
people, and to pluck from them their ti^unes for ever. 
This li^ glowing, I can tell you, and is almost mature 
for the violent breaking out. 

VoLS. Coriolanus banished! 

Rom. Banished, sir. 

VoLS. You will be welcome with this intelligence, 

* Nicanor. 

Rom. The day serves well for them now. I have 
heard it said, the fittest time to corrupt a man’s wife is so 
when she’s fallen out with her husband. Your noble 
Tullus Aufidius will appear well in these wars, his great 
opposer, Coriolanus, being now in no request of his 

Vous. He cannot choose. I am most fortunate, thus 
accidentally to encounter you : you have ended my busi- 
ness, and I will merrily accompany you home. 

Rom. I shall, between this and supper, tell you most 
strange things from Rome; all tending to the good of 
their adversaries. ' HaVe you an army ready, say you ? 
VoLS. A most royal one; the centurions and their 4o 

21 ripe aptneee] eager readineu. 

23 Thie Ues gUnomg] The situation is compared to glowing embers about 
to burst into flame. 

29 The day . . . now] The turn of events well serves the purpose of the 
Volsdans now. 

40 A meet royal one] A flrst-rate one. 

oenturione] captains of a troop of a hundred men. 

» [ 1*9 ] 


ACT ir 

charges, distinctly billeted, already in the entertainment, 
and to be on foot at an hour’s warning. 

Rom. I am joyful to hear of their readiness, and am 
the man, I think, that shall set them in present action. 
So, sir, heartily well met, and most glad of your company. 

VoLs. You take my part from me, sir; I have the 
most cause to be glad of yours. 

Rom. Well, let us go together. [Exeunt. 



Enter Cobiolantts in mean apparel, disguised and muffled 

Cor. a goodly city is this Antium. City, 

’T is I that made thy widows : many an heir 

Of these fair edifices ’fore my wars 

Have I heard groan and drop: then know me not; 

Lest that thy wives with spits, and boys with stones, 

In puny battle slay me. 

Enter a Citizen 

Save you, sir. 

CiT. And you. 

Cor. Direct me, if it be your will. 

Where great Aufidius lies : is he in Antium ? 

41 t« the entertainment] in receipt of pay, on full allowance. Cf. AU’s 
Well, IV, i, 14-15: “some band of strangers i’ th’ adversary’s enter- 

8 Kss] lives, resides. 

[ 180 ] 




CiT. He is, and feasts the nobles of the state 
At his^ house this night. 

Cob. Which is his house, beseech you ? lo 

# CiT. This, here, before you. 

Cob. Thank you, sir; farewell. 

[Exit Cituten. 

O world, thy slippery turns ! Friends now fast sworn, 
Whose double bosoms seem to wear one heart, 

Whose hours, whose bed, whose meal and exercise 
Are still together, who twin, as ’t were, in love 
'Unseparable, shall within this hour. 

On a dissension of a doit, break out 
To bitterest enmity : so, fellest foes. 

Whose passions and whose plots have broke their sleep 
To take the one the other, by some chance, *o 

Some trick not worth an egg, shall grow dear friends 
And interjoin their issues. So with me: 

My birth-place hate I, and my love’s upon 
This enemy town. I’ll enter: if he slay me, 

He does fair justice ; if he give me way. 

I’ll do his country service. [Exit. 

15 toko twin . . in love] who love one another like twins. Cf. Othello^ 
n, iii, 204: “Though he had twinn*d with me.” 

17 o dissension of a doit] a quarrel over a farthing. 

21 Swne trick] Some toy or trifle, Cf. T. oj ShreWy IV, iii, 67: “A knack, 

a toy, a trick, a baby's cap,” 

22 inter join their issues] make their children intermarry. 

23 hate /] Capell’s correction of the Folio reading have /• 

[ 181 ] 



Music within. Enter a Servingman 

First Serv. Wine, wine, wine ! — What service is 
here ! 

I think our fellows are asleep. [Emt. 

Enter another Servingman 

Sec. Serv. Where’s Cotus? my master calls for him. 
Cotus ! [EtU, 

Enter Cobiolanus 

Cor. a goodly house : the feast smells well ; but I 
Appear not like a guest. 

Re-enter the first Servingman 

First Serv. What would you have, friend ? whence 
are you ? Here’s no place for you : pray, go to the door. 


Cor. I have deserved no better entertainment, 

In being Coriolanus. 

Re-enter second Servingman 

Sec. Serv. Whence are you, sir ? Has the porter his 
eyes in his head, that he gives entrance to such compan- 
ions ? Pray, get you out. 

Cor. Away ! 

12 oom^pamona\ fellowB. Cf. V, ii, 58, infra. 

[ 182 ] 



Sec. Serv. “Away!” get you away. 

Cob. Now thou ’rt troublesome. 

Sec. Seev. Are you so brave? I’ll have you talked 
0 vuth auou. 

Enter a third Servingman. The first meets him 

Third Serv. What fellow ’s this? 

First Serv. A strange one as ever I looked on : I to 
cannot get him out o’ the house : prithee, call my master 
to him. [ileiiM*. 

Third Serv. What have you to do here, fellow ? 
Pray you, avoid the house. 

Cob. Let me but stand ; I will not hurt your hearth. 
Third Serv. What are you ? 

Cor. a gentleman. 

Third Serv. A marvellous poor one. 

Cor. True, so I am. 

Third Serv. Pray you, poor gentleman, take up so 
some other station; here ’s no place for you; pray you, 
avoid: come. 

Cor. Follow your function, go, and batten on cold bits. 

[Pushes him away from him. 
Third Serv. What, you will not? Prithee, tell my 
master what a strange guest he has here. 

Sec. Serv. And I shall. [£**• 

Third Serv. Where dwell’st thou? 

Cor. Under the canopy. 

24 avoid the house] clear out of the house. So line 81, infra. 

S3 batten on cold bits] feast or gorge on cold leavings, scraps of cold dishes. 

38 the canopy] sc. of heaven, the sky. Cf. Hamlet, 11, ii, 298 : “this most 
excellent canopy, the air.” 

[ 188 ] 


Thikd Sebv. Under the canopy 1 

Coe. Ay. io 

Thied Seev. Where ’a that? 

Cob. I’ the city of kites and crows. ^ 

Third Sebv. I’ the city of kites and crows ! What 
an ass it is ! Then thou dwelKst with daws too ? 

Cor. No, I serve not thy master. ‘ 

Third Serv. How, sir ! do you meddle with my 
master ? 

Cor. Ay ; ’t is an honester service than to meddle 
with thy mistress! 

Thou pratest, and pratest; serve with thy trencher, 
hence ! [Beats him away. Exit third Servingman. 

Enter Aufidius with the second Servingman 

Auf. Where is this fellow ? 50 

Sec. Serv. Here, sir: I Md have beaten him like a dog, 
but for disturbing the lords within. [B^res. 

Auf. Whence comest thou? what wouldst thou? 
thy name? 

Why speak’st not? speak, man: what’s thy name? 

Cor. [Unmujfiing^ If, Tullus, 

Not yet thou knowest me, and, seeing me, dost 

Think me for the man I am, necessity 
Commands me name myself. 

Auf. What is thy name ? 

44 daws] jackdaws, in the sense of simpletons, fools. 

49 trencheT] wooden platter, on which food was cut up for eating purposes. 




Cor. a name unmusical to the Volscians’ ears. 

And harsh in sound to thine. 

Aup. Say, what ’s thy name? 

Thou hast a grim appearance, and thy face «o 

Bears a command in ’t; though thy tackle’s tom, 

Thou show’st a noble vessel: what’s thy name? 

Coft. Prepare thy brow to frown: — know’st thou 
me yet ? 

Aur. I know thee not : — thy name ? 

Cob. My name is Caius Marcius, who hath done 
To thee particularly, and to all the Volsces, 

Great hurt and mischief ; thereto witness may 
My surname Coriolanus: the painful service, 

The extreme dangers, and the drops of blood 

Shed for my thankless country, are requited 70 

But with that surname ; a good memory. 

And witness of the malice and displeasure 

Which thou shouldst bear me : only that name remains : 

The cruelty and envy of the people, 

Permitted by our dastard nobles, who 
Have all forsook me, hath devour’d the rest; 

And suffer’d me by the voice of slaves to be 
Hoop’d out of Rome. Now, this extremity 

60-61 thy face . . . command in ’l] Cf. North’s Plutarch: "Yet there 
appeared a certain majesty in his countenance.” 

65-101 My name is .. . service] Thb speech is adapted with great 
literalness from North’s Plviarch, 

71 a good memory] a good memorial. Cf. V, i, 17, and V, vi, 154, infra. 
The expression is North’s. 

78 Hoop'd] Hooted. Cf. IV, vi, li4, infra: him out of the city.” 

Thus ie Folios. Hanmer gives the more modem spelling Whoop'd, 




Hath brought me to thy hearth: not out of hope — 
Mistake me not — to save my life, for if so 

I had fear’d death, of all the men i’ the world 
I would have ’voided thee ; but in mere spite, 

To be full quit of those my banishers. 

Stand I before thee here. Then if thou hast 
A heart of wreak in thee, that wilt revenge * 

Thine own particular wrongs, and stop those maims 

Of shame seen through thy country, speed thee straight. 

And make my misery serve thy turn : so use it 

That my revengeful services may prove 

As benefits to thee; for I will fight so 

Against my canker’d country with the spleen 

Of all the under fiends. But if so be 

Thou darest not this and that to prove more fortunes 

Thou’rt tired, then, in a word, I also am 

Longer to live most weary, and present 

My throat to thee and to thy ancient malice; 

Which not to cut would show thee but a fool. 

Since I have ever follow’d thee with hate. 

Drawn tuns of blood out of thy country’s breast, 

And cannot live but to thy shame, unless lOO 

It be to do thee service. 

8S To be full quit of] To be entirely quits with, to pay out to the full. 

85 A heart of wreak] A heart seeking revenge. North's expression is 
“if thou hast any heart to be wrecked {i. e., wreaked, avenged) of the 
injuries thy enemies have done thee.” 

85-87 maima Of ehaTne] shameful bjuries, the spoliation of thy territory. 

91 canker'd] malignant. 

92 the under fiends] the fiends of hell below the earth. 

[ 186 ] 

801D7E y 


* Auf. O Mardus, Mardus ! 

Each word thou hast spoke hath weeded from my heart 

A root of andent envy. If Jupiter 

Should from yond cloud speak divine things, 

And say “’T is true,” I 'Id not believe them more 
Than thee, all noble Mardus. Let fne twine 
Mirife arms about that body, where against 
My grained ash an hundred times hath broke, 

And scarr’d the moon with splinters : here I clip 

The anvil of my sword, and do contest no 

As hotly and as nobly with thy love 

As ever in ambitious strength I did 

Contend against thy valour. Know thou first, 

I loved the maid I married ; never man 
Sigh’d truer breath ; but that I see thee here. 

Thou noble thing ! more dances my rapt heart 

Than when I first my wedded mistress saw 

Bestride my threshold. Why, thou Mars ! I tell thee. 

We have a power on foot; and I had purpose 

Once more to hew thy target from thy brawn, no 

Or lose mine arm for ’t : thou hast beat me out 

108 My grained asft] My stout ashen spear. “Grained,” which has no 
very definite significance as applied to the grain of wood, means here 
“unbroken,” “strong.” 

109 ecarr’d the moon with splintere] Cf. for the hyperbolical figure Wint. 
Tale, ni, iii, 89-90: “tte ship boring the moon with her mainmast.” 

109-110 I clip . . . sword\ I embrace the object which I have struck 
with my sword with the strength of a smith striking an anvil. 

119 a power on jooC\ an army in the field. 

140 thy target from thy brawn] thy shield from thy brawny arm. 

141 out] outright, thoroughly. 

[ 187 ] 


act If 

Twelve several times, and 1 have nightly since 
Dreamt of encounters 'twixt thyself and me; 

We have been down together in my sleep. 

Unbuckling helms, fisting each other’s throat; 

And waked half dead with nothing. Worthy Marcius, 

Had we no quarrel else to Rome but that 

Thou art thence banish’d, we would muster all 

From twelve to seventy, and pouring war 

Into the bowels of ungrateful Rome, iso 

Like a bold flood o’er-beat. O, come, go in, 

And take our friendly senators by the hands. 

Who now are here, taking their leaves of me. 

Who am prepared against your territories. 

Though not for Rome itself. 

Cob. You bless me, gods ! 

Auf. Therefore, most absolute sir, if thou wilt have 
The leading of thine own revenges, take 
The one half of my commission, and set down — 

As best thou art experienced, since thou know’st 
Thy country’s strength and weakness — thine own 
ways ; i40 

Whether to knock against the gates of Rome, 

Or rudely visit them in parts remote. 

To fright them,' ere destroy. But come in: 

125 helms] helmets. 

131 o*er-beat] beat down* overwhelm. Thus the Folios, The word is 
rare. Rowe like most editors reads o W^bear, i. e., overflow, with 
which cf. rV, vi, 79: “[they] have already Overborne (i. e., overflowed) 
their way.” 

136 absolvU] excellent, perfect. Cf. ArU, and Cleop.^ I, ii, 2; ‘‘most abso- 
tide Alezas.” 

[ 188 ] 



Let me commend thee first to those that shall 
Say yea to thy desires. A thousand welcomes ! 

And more a friend than e’er an enemy; 

Yet, Marcius, that was much. Your hand: most wel- 
come ! [Exeunt Coriolanus and Aufidius. The two 

Sermng-men come forward. 
First Serv. Here ’s a strange alteration ! 

Sec. Serv. By my hand, I had thought to have 
strucken him with a cudgel; and yet my mind gave 
me his clothes made a false report of him. i5i 

First Serv. What an arm he has ! he turned me 
about with his finger and his thumb, as one would set 
up a top. 

Sec. Serv. Nay, I knew by his face that there was 
something in him : he had, sir, a kind of face, methought, 
— I cannot tell how to term it. 

First Serv. He had so ; looking as it were — Would 
I were hanged, but I thought there was more in him 
than I could think. 

Sec. Serv. So did I, I ’ll be sworn : he is simply the 
rarest man i’ the world. lei 

First Serv. I think he is : but a greater soldier than 
he, you wot one. • 

Sec. Serv. Who P my master ? 

First Serv. Nay, it ’s no matter for that. 

150-151 my mind gave me] my mind suggested, hinted to me. The same 
expression appears in Hen. VIII, V, iii, 100. 

15S-154 eet up] set spinnmg. 

163 you wot one] you know the man I mean. Thus the Folios. For one 
many editors substitute on (“you wot on” being often used colic* [ui- 
ally for “you tcUw my hint”). But no change is necessary here. 

[ 189] 



Sec. Sebv. Worth six on him. 

First Seev. Nay, not so neither: but I take him to 
be the greater soldier. 

• Sec. Serv. Faith, look you, one cannot tell how to « 
say that: for the defence of a town, our general is 
excellent. iro 


First Sebv. Ay, and for an assault too. 

Re-enter third Servingman 

Third Sebv. O slaves, I can tell you news; news, 
you rascals ! 

First AND Sec. Sebv. What, what, what? let’s 

Third Serv. I would not be a Roman, of all nations ; 

I had as lieve be a condemned man. 

First and Sec. Serv. Yl^erefore ? wherefore ? 

Third Serv. Why, here ’s he that was wont to 
thwack our general, Caius Marcius. 

First Serv. Why do you say, thwack our general ? iso 
Third Serv. I do not say, thwack our general ; but 
he was always good enough for him. 

Sec. Sebv. Come, we are fellows and friends: he 
was ever too hard for him ; I have heard him say so 

First Serv. He was too hard for him directly, to say 

188 fellcywa] companions* fellow-servants. 

185 direeUy] possibly "'in straightforward encounter,” "'hand to hand.” 
The word is elsewhere used b the sense of "immediately ” (cf. I, vi, 

59, aupni), and also in that of "manifestly,” "obviously.” Cf. OtheUa, 
n* I, ill6: "Desdemona is directly in love with him.” 




the troth on ’t : before CorioU he scotched him and 
notched him like a carbonado. 

Sec. Serv. An he had been cannibally given, he 
might have broiled and eaten him too. 

First Serv. But, more of thy news ? 190 

Third Serv. Why, he is so made ’on here within as 
if he’were son and heir to Mars ; set at upper end o’ the 
table; no question asked him by any of the senators, 
but they stand bald before him. Our general himself 
makes a mistress of him ; sanctifies himself with’s hand, 
and turns up the white o’ the eye to his discourse. But 
the bottom of the news is, our general is cut i’ the middle, 
and but one half of what he was yesterday ; for the other 
has half, by the entreaty and grant of the whole table. 
He’ll go, he says, and sowl the porter of Rome gates by 
the ears ; he will mow all down before him, and leave 
his passage poll’d. 

186*187 he scotched . . . like a carbonado] hacked and cut about like a 
piece of meat slashed for broiling. 

189 broiled] Pope’s correction of the obvious Folio misreading boyld. 

101 80 made on] made so. much of. 

194 bald] bareheaded. 

195 sanctifies . . . hand] touches his hand as if it were a holy relic. The • 
reference is probably to the religious ceremony of touching a sancti- 
fied relic. Cf. As you like tf. III, iv, 12-13: ‘^his kissing is as 
full of sanctity as the touch of holy bread.” 

197 bottom] base, essential part. 

199 by the entreaty . . . whole table] at the request and with the consent of 
all the company, 

200 sowt] seize or drag. The word is still common in provincial use. 

302 poU’d] sheared or stripped bare (by means of plundering raids). 

[ 141 ] 


Sec. Sebv. And he’s as like to do’t as any man I cin 
imagine. sot 

Third Seev. Do’t! he will do’t; for, look you, sir, 
he has as many friends as enemies ; which friends, sir, , 
as it were, durst not, look you, sir, show themselves, as 
We term it, his friends wlulst he’s in directitude. 

First Seev. Directitude ! what ’s that ? 209 

Third Seev. But when they shall see, sir, his crest 
up again and the man in blood, they will out of their bur* 
rows, like conies after rain, and revel all with him. 

First. Seev. But when goes this forward ? 

Third Seev. To-morrow; to-day; presently: you 
shall have the drum struck up this afternoon : ’t is, as it 
were, a parcel of their feast, and to be executed ere they 
wipe their lips. 

Sec. Seev. Why, then we shall have a stirring world 
again. This peace is nothing, but to rust iron, increase 
tailors, and breed ba lad-makers. 220 

First Seev. Let me have war, say I ; it exceeds 
peace as far as day does night ; it ’s spritely, waking, 
audible, and full of vent. Peace is a very apoplexy, leth- 

> 208 directUude] a blundering malspropigm for “discredit.” Malone sub* 
fftituted disoreditvde, 

211 in blood] in fighting condition. 

216 a parcel] a part. 

222 eprUelyt v)aking] Pope's correction of the Folio eprighUy walking 
(i, quick moving, marching in lively fashion). 

223 fidl of vent] full of go, of stir, of energy. This, and the other epithets 
of the sentence, are the antitheses of the epithets ** mull’d, deal, sleepy, 
insensible " the next sentence. 




ar^, mull’d, deaf, sleepy, insensible ; a getter of more 
bastard children than war ’s a destroyer of men. 

Sec. Sebv. ’T is so ; and as war, in some sort, may 
, be said to be a ravisher, so it cannot be denied but peace 
is a great maker of cuckolds. 

First Serv. Ay, and it makes men Bate one another. 

ThIrd Serv. Reason ; because they then less need 
one another. The wars for my money. I hope to see 
Romans as cheap as Volscians. They are rising, they 
are rising. 

First and Sec. Serv. In, in, in, in ! [Exeunt, sss 


Enter the two Tribunes, Sicduus and Baurtrs 

Sic. We hear not of him, neither need we fear him ; 
His remedies are tame i’ the present peace 
And quietness of the people, which before 
Were in wild hurry. Here do we make his friends 
Blush that the world goes well ; who rather had. 

Though they themselves did suffer by’t, behold 
Dissentious numbers pestering streets than see 
Our tradesmen singing in their shops and going 
About their functions friendly. 

mvU*d\ flat, insipid ; like wine spoilt by being boiled or over-sweetened. 
for my money] for my part ; a vulgar colloquialism still in use. English- 
men for My Money was the name of a play by William Haughton, 1616. 

% His remedies . . . 'peace] His means of redressing his wrongs are 
ineffectual in a t^me of peace like this. The Folios omit the preposi- 
tion {’, which Theobald supplied. 

4 kurry] commotion. 

[ 148 ] 



Bbu. We stood to ’t in good time. 

Enter Mknxniub 

Is this MeneniusP^o 

Sic. ’T is he./t-is he: O, he is grown most kind 
Of late. Hail, sir ! 

Men. Hail to you both ! 

Sic. Your Coriolanus is not much miss’d, 

But with his friends : the commonwealth doth stand ; 
And so would do, were he more angry at it. 

Men. All ’s well ; and might have been much better, 

He could have temporized. 

Sic. Where is he, hear you ? 

Men. Nay, I hear nothing : his mother and his wife 
Hear nothing from him. 

Enter three or four Citizens 

Citizens. The gods preserve you both ! 

Sic. God-den, our neighbours. 20 

Bbu. God-den to you all, god-den to you all. 

Fibst Cit. Ourselves, our wives, and children, on 
our knees. 

Are bound to pray for you both. 

Sic. Live, and thrive ! 

Bbu. Farewell, kind neighbours: we wish’d Corio- 

Had loved you as we did. 

Citizens. Now the gods keep you ! 

Both Tbi. Farewell, farewell. [Exeunt CUizent. 

[ 144 ] 



Sic. This is a happier and more comely time 
Than when these fellows ran about the streets, 

Ciying confusion. 

• Bbu. Caius Marcius was 

A worthy officer i’ the war, but insolent, «o 

O’ercQme with pride, ambitious past all thinking. 
Self-loving, — 

Sic. And affecting one sole throne. 

Without assistance. 

Men. 1 think not so. 

Sic. We should by this, to all our lamentation. 

If he had gone forth consul, found it so. 

Bru. The gods have well prevented it, and Rome 
Sits safe and still without him. 

ErUer an £dile 

iEn. Worthy tribunes. 

There is a slave, whom we have put in prison. 

Reports, the Volsces with two several powers 
Are enter’d in the Roman territories, 40 

And with the deepest malice of the war 
Destroy what lies before ’em. 

Men. ’T is Aufidius, 

Who, hearing of our Marcius’ banishment, 

'Thrusts forth his horns again into the world; 

Which were inshelTd when Marcius stood for Rome, 
And durst not once peep out. 

82 affseting] aiming at, longing for. 

89 powers] forces, armies. 

44 hie ho^] The figure is from a snafl. 

45 for Rom] in defence of Rome. Cf. supra, III, iii. 111 and IV, ii, 28. 

10 [ 145 ] 



Sic. Come, what talk you 

Of Marcius ? 

Bbu. Go see this rumourer whipp’d. It cannot be 
The Volsces dare break with us. 

Men. , Cannot be ! 

We have record that very well it can, 

And three examples of the like have been 
Within my age. But reason with the fellow, 

Before you punish him, where he heard this. 

Lest you shall chance to whip your information. 

And beat the messenger who bids beware 
Of what is to be dreaded. 

Sic. Tell not me: 

I know this cannot be. 

Bru. Not possible. 

Enter a Messenger 

Mess. The nobles in great earnestness are going 
All to the senate-house : some news is come 
That turns their countenances. 

Sic. ’T is this slave ; 

Go whip him ’fore the people’s eyes : his raising ; 
Nothing but his report. 

Mess. Yes, worthy sir. 

The slave’s report is seconded; and more. 

More fearful, is deliver’d. 

Sic. What more fearful ? 

Si reason with] converse with. 

58 earnestness] seriousness, anxiety. 

59 come] Rowe’s correction of the Folio earning. 
eo (»me] turns sour or pale. 

[ 146 ] 



•Mess. It is spoke freely out of many mouths — 

How probable I do not know — that Marcius, 

Join’d with Aufidius, leads a power ’gainst Rome, 

•And vows revenge as spacious as between 
The young’st and oldest thing. 

Sic.^ This is most likely ! 

Bru. Raised only, that the weaker sort may wish 7 o 
Good Marcius home again. 

Sic. The very trick on’t. 

Men. This is unlikely ; 

He and Aufidius can no more atone 
Than violentest contrariety. 

Enter a second Messenger 

Sec. Mess. You are sent for to the senate : 

A fearful army, led by Caius Marcius 

Associated with Aufidius, rages 

Upon our territories ; and have already 

O’erborne their way, consumed with fire, and took 

What lay before them. 80 

Enter Cominius 

Com. O, you have made good work ! 

Men. What news? what news? 

68-69 (u spacimu . . . oldest thing] so sjmcious or compreheiuire as 
to involve everybody, from the youngest to the oldest. 

78 atone] be at one, be reconciled. The intransitive use of the verb 

is rate. But cf. As you like it, V, iv, 103-104 : “ earthly things 
. . . Atone together.” 

79 O'erbome their way] Overflowed their boundaries. Cf. note on IV, 

V, 131, supra. 

[ 147 ] 


Com. You have holp to ravish your own daughters, 

To melt the city leads upon your pates; 

To see your wives dishonour’d to your noses, — 

Men. What ’s the news ? what ’s the news ? 

Com. Your temples burned in their cement, and 
Your franchises, whereon you stood, confined 
Into an auger’s bore. 

Men. Pray now, your news ? — 

You have made fair work, I fear me. — Pray, your 
news ? — 

If Marcius should be join’d with Volscians, — 

Com. If ! 

He is their god : he leads them like a thing 
Made by some other deity than nature, 

That shapes man better; and they follow him. 

Against us brats, with no less confidence 
Than boys pursuing summer butterflies. 

Or butchers killing flies. 

Men. You have made good work. 

You and your apron-men ; you that stood so much 

8S lead»\ sc. of the roofs, leaden coverings of the roofs. 

M in ihetr cemmt] into their cement, till the fire crumbles even the cement 
between the stones. 

87-88 Your franchises . . . bore] Your rights, on which you plumed 
yourselves, reduced to the narrowest compass. The bore or hole made 
by an auger was minute. 

94 bnits] weaklings, feeble as children. 

95 butterflies] The word is sometimes spelt by Elizabetlum writers “butter 

flees,” on which account the repetition of “flies” in the next line 
probably went unobserved. 

97 your oprorMnen] your mechanics. 

[ 148 ] 



Upon the voice of occupation and 
The breath of garlic-eaters ! 

Com. He’ll shake your Rome about your ears. 

' Men. As Hercules 

Did shake down mellow fruit. You have made fair 
work ! * 101 

Bru. But is this true, sir ? 

Com. Ay; and you ’ll look pale 

Before you find it other. All the regions 
Do smilingly revolt; and who resist 
Are mock’d for valiant ignorance, 

And perish constant fools. Who is ’t can blame him ? 
Your enemies and his find something in him. 

Men. We are all undone, unless 
The noble man have mercy. 

Com. Who shall ask it? 

The tribunes cannot do’t for shame; the people no 

Deserve such pity of him as the wolf 

Does of the shepherds : for his best friends, if they 

98 the voice of occupation] the approval or votes of the working class. Cf. 

IV, i, 14, supra^ and note. 

99 garlic-eaters] a common phrase of contempt for the lowest orders, with 

their offensively smelling breath. 

100-101 As Hercules . . . mellow fruU] A farcical allusion to the story 
of one of Hercules’ twelve labours which required him to gather golden 
apples from the garden of the Hesperides. Accordmg to the com- 
monest version of the tale, Hercules performed thk exploit vicariously, 
and induced Atlas to gather the apples for him. 

104 smilingly] complaisantly. Thus the Folios. No change is needful. 

105 valiant ignorance] Cf. TroU. and Cress,, IH, iii, 307 : “such a valiant 

106 perish conslamt fools] perish as obstinate men foolishly braving 

impossibilities. r 1 4d 1 


Mm W 

Should say “Be good to Rome/* they charged him even 
As those should do that had deserved bis bate, 

And therein show’d like enemies. 

Men. ’T is true : 

If he were putting to my house the brand 
That should codsume it, I have not the face 
To say “Beseech you, cease.” You have made fair 

You and your crafts ! you have crafted fair ! 

Com. You have brought 

A trembling upon Rome, such as was never i«o 

So incapable of help. 

Both Tri. Say not, we brought it. 

Men. How ! was it we ? we loved him ; but, like beasts 
And cowardly nobles, gave way unto your clusters. 

Who did hoot him out o’ the city. 

Com. But I fear 

They’ll roar him in again. Tullus Aufidius, 

The second name of men, obeys his points 
As if he were his oflScer: desperation 
Is all the policy, strength and defence. 

That Rome can make against them. 

113-115 the?/ charged . . . like enemies] The main verbs (“charged ** 
and “show’d ”) are here in the conditional mood. The sentence 
means that they would urge on him a charge or injunction, like men 
who had deserved his hatred, and they would assume the outward 
guise of enemies. 

118 fair hands] a pretty piece of handiwork. 

126 his points] his points of command, his commands. Cf. Tempest, T, ti, 
500: “do All points of my command.” A “pomt of war” commonly 
meant a bugle call. Cf. k Hen, IV, IV, i, 52: “a loud trumpet and 
a point of war.** 

[ 160 ] 

'»»»; Ti 


Enter a troop of Citizens 

Men. Here come the clusters. 

And is Aufidius with him ? You are they m 

* That made the air unwholesome, when you cast 
Your stinking greasy caps in hooting at 
Corioianus’ exile. Now he ’s coming; 

And not a hair upon a soldier’s head 

Which will not prove a whip : as many coxcombs 

As you threw caps up will he tumble down, 

And pay you for your voices. ’T is no matter; 

If he could burn us all into one coal, 

We have deserved it. 

Citizens. Faith, we hear fearful news. 

Fiest Cit. For mine own part. 

When I said, banish him, I said, ’t was pity. ui 

Sec. Cit. And so did I. 

Third Cit. And so did I ; and, to say the truth, so 
did very many of us : that we did, we did for the best ; 
and though we willingly consented to his banishment, 
yet it was against our will. 

Com. Ye ’re goodly things, you voices ! 

Men. You have made 

Good work, you and your cry ! Shall ’s to the Capitol ? 

Com. O, ay, what else? [Exeunt Cominius and Merieniiu. 

Sic. Go, masters, get you home ; be not dismay’d . iso 
These are a side that would be glad to have 
This true which they so seem to fear. Go home. 

And show no sign of fear. 

148 cry] padt. Cf. m, Hi, 122. tupra; "You cry of common cum.’’ 




First Cit. The gods be good to «s ! Come, masters, 
let ’s home. I ever said we were i’ the wrong when we 
banished him. 

Sec. Cit. So did we ail. But, come, let’s home, e 

[Exmtd Citiwm$. 

Bru. I do ndt like this news. 

Sic. Nor I. 

Bru. Let ’s to the Capitol : would half my wealth leo 
Would buy this for a lie ! 

Sic. Pray, let us go. [Eaxunt. 


Enter Aufidios with hie Lieutenant 

Auf. Do they still fly to the Roman ? 

Lieu. I do not know what witchcraft ’s in him, but 
Your soldiers use him as the grace ’fore meat. 

Their talk at table and their thanks at end ; 

And you are darken’d in this action, sir. 

Even by your own. 

Auf. I cannot help it now. 

Unless, by using means, 1 lame the foot 

Of our design. He bears himself more proudlier. 

Even to my person, than I thought he would 
When first I did embrace him : yet his nature lo 

In that’s no changeling; and I must excuse 
What cannot be amended. 

5 darken'd] thrown into the shade. * 

8 more 'provMier] The double comparative was a common mode of express- 
ing emphasis. 

[ 15 *] 



Lieu. Yet I wish, sir — 

I mean for your particular — you had not 
Join’d in commission with him ; but either 
Had borne the action of yourself, or else 
To him had left it solely. 

Auf. 1 understand thee well; and* be thou sure, 
When he shall come to his account, he knows not 
What I can urge against him. Although it seems. 

And so he thinks, and is no less apparent 
To the vulgar eye, that he bears all things fairly, 

And shows good husbandry for the Volscian state. 
Fights dragon-like, and does achieve as soon 
As draw his sword, yet he hath left undone 
That which shall break his neck or hazard mine, 
Whene’er we come to our account. 

Lieu. Sir, I beseech you, think you he’ll carry Rome ? 
Auf. All places yield to him ere he sits down ; 

And the nobility of Rome are his: 

13 /or your particular] in your own personal interest 

15 Had borne] Pope’s correction of the Folio reading haue borne, 

22 shows good kusbarulry] shows good management, 

24-26 yet he hath left . our account] These lines clearly mean that Cori- 
' olanus’ omission of some unspecified act is certain to imperil his own 
life and that of Aufidius. Mr. Craig ingeniously suggested that Shake- 
speare was here obscurely alluding to a passage in Plutarch, where 
Coriolanus was credited, in his invasion of Roman territoiy, with 
thoroughly despoiling the property of the poor, but with abstaining 
from injuring noblemen’s lands and goods. Aufidius might perceive 
future danger in this gentle treatment of the wealthier Romans. 
But Shakespeare failed to develop this hint of Plutarch, and a later 
reference in the play (V, i, 22 seq.) almost suggests that the drama- 
tist deliberately ignored it. 

27 carry] conquer, take. Cf. V, vi, 43, infra. 

[ 168 ] 


ACT 3tV 

The senators and patricians love him too : 

The tribunes are no soldiers; and their people 
Will be as rash in the repeal, as hasty 
To expel him thence. I think he’ll be to Rome 
As is the osprey to the fish, who takes it 
By sovereignty of nature. First he was 
A noble servant to them ; but he could not 
Carry his honours even : whether ’t was pride. 

Which out of daily fortune ever taints 

The happy man; whether defect of judgement. 

To fail in the disposing of those chances 
Which he was lord of; or whether nature, 

Not to be other than one thing, not moving 
From the casque to the cushion, but commanding peace 
Even with the same austerity and garb 
As he controll’d the war ; but one of these — 

As he hath spices of them all, not all, 

84-35 As is the osprey . . . nature] Fish are said to make no sort of resist- 
ance to the attack of the osprey (which the Folios spell Aspray) but 
turn on their backs and surrender to the bird without a struggle. Cf. 
Two Noble Kinsmen, I, i, 138-139; “As ospreys do the fish subdue 
before they touch.” 

39 happy] prosperous, fortunate. 

41-43 nature . . . cushion] a stubborn uniformity of nature which could 
not fittingly make the transition from the soldier’s helmet to the civil 
magistrate’s armchair. 

45 controWd the war] exercised control in war-time. 

46 spices of them aU] Aufidius credits Coriolanus with some taste of the 

three several vices which he has imputed to him, vu., the pride that 
comes of success, inability to make good use of the fruits of victory, 
and lack of power to accommodate his habit of military command to 
the exercise of civil authority. 

[ 164 ] 



SCaCNE vu 

For I dare so far free him — made him fear’d. 

So hated, and so banish’d : but he has a merit, 

To choke it in the utterance. So our virtues 
« Lie in the interpretation of the time ; so 

And power, unto itself most commendable. 

Hath not a tomb so evident as a chair 
To extol what it hath done. 

One fire drives out one fire ; one nail, one nail ; 

Rights by rights fouler, strengths by strengths do fail. 

48- 4d he has a merit . . , utterance] his merit is such as ought to choke 

the utterance of censure. *‘It’* would imply the general obloquy 
to which Coriolanus had been exposed. Some would, less convinc- 
ingly, limit the object of “choke” to the sentence of banishment. 

49- 50 So our virtues ... the time] So our virtues depend for their estima- 

tion on the way in which they are adapted to the circumstances of the 
time. The virtues that suit war may come to be viewed as vices in 
time of peace. This explanation of the words seems to suit the con- 
text better than to treat them as meaning that virtues exist only in 
the opinion held of them by contemporaries, i. e., virtues have no 
permanently intrinsic value. 

51-53 And power ... it hath done] The general meaning of these dif- 
ficult lines is: And power, though meritoriously earned and rightly 
generating self-satisfaction, is liable to no graver ruin than what comes 
of self-laudation. '‘A diair to extol what it hath done” means “a 
chair of state,” or “a rostrum from which to deliver speeches of self- 
glorification.” The sentiment is identical with that in Trod, and 
Cress., I, iii, 241-242: “The worthiness of praise distams his worth, 

If that the praised himself bring the praise forth,” and All^s Well, 

I, iii, 5-7 : “we . . make foul the clearness of our deservings, when 
of ourselves we publish them.” 

54 One fire . . . fire] A favourite proverbial expression in Shakespeare. 

Cf. Jvl. C<B8., Ill, i, 172: “As fire drives out fire,** and note. 

55 Bights hy rights fouler . . . fait] Thus the Folios. The construction 

is very obscure and irregular. The verb at the end “do fail” must 

[ 166 ] 


ACT tf 

Come, let ’s away. When, Caius, Rome is thine. 
Thou art poorest of all ; then shortly art thou mine. 


be governed hj ^’rights’* as well as ** strengths.’* As it stands, the 
line means that just rights or titles fail in the presence of rights or 
titles which are of worse validity, and strengths of one kind succumb 
to strengths of another. It would, however, seem reasonable *here to 
regard fouler as a misprint, and to accept Dyce*i happy emendation 
of falter. 


act fifth — scene I 



Enter Meneniub, Cominitts, Sicmixjs and Bbutus, the two 
Tribunes, with others 


hear what he hath said 
Which was sometime his general, 
w'ho loved him 

In a most dear particular. He 
call’d me father: 

But what o’ that? Go, you 
that banish’d him ; 

A mile before his tent fall down, 
and knee 

The way into his mercy: nay, 

if he coy’d , tmi 

To hear Cominius speak, 1 li 

keep at home. 

Com. He would not seem to know me. 

, , Do you hear r 

Men. ^ 

S Which] Who; the antecedent is “he,” t. Cominius !)• 

[ 157 ] 



Com. Yet one time he did call me by my name: 

1 urged OUT old acquaintance, and the drops 
That we have bled together. Coriolanus 
He would not answer to: forbad all names; 

He was a kind of nothing, titleless. 

Till he had forged himself a name o’ the fire 
Of burning Rome. 

Men. Why, so : you have made good work ! 

A pair of tribunes that have rack’d for Rome, 

To make coals cheap : a noble memory ! 

Com. I minded him how royal ’t was to pardon 
When it was less expected : he replied, 

It was a bare petition of a state 
To one whom they had punish’d. 

Men. Very well : 

Could he say less ? 

Com. I offer’d to awaken his regard 
For ’s private friends : his answer to me was. 

He could not stay to pick them in a pile 

$ In a most dear particular] In a most affectionate and private intimacy, 
coy'd To hear] was coy of hearing, was reluctant to hear. 

12 forbad all names] declined to respond to any name. 

14 o* the fire] out of the fire. 

16 racked for Rome] striven for, strained every nerve for, Rome. Cf, Merch. 

of Fen., I, i, 181: “(My credit) . . . shall be rack'd^ even to the 
uttermost.” Thus Pope. The Folios read wrack'd for Rome which 
Dyce changed, quite needlessly, bto wreck'd fair Rome. 

17 To make coals cheap] With the result of cheapening fuel by making Rome 

itself material for fire. 
memory] memorial. Cf. IV, v, 71, supra. 

20 a bare petition] a threadbare request, a petition of no fubitanoe, 

26 in a pife] from, or out of, a heap. 




Of noisome musty chaff ; he said, ’t was folly, 

For one poor grain or two, to leave unburnt. 

And still to nose the offence. 

, Men. For one poor grain or two ! 

I am one of those; his mother, wife, his child. 

And this brave fellow too, we are the grains : so 

You are the musty chaff, and you are smelt 
Above the moon : we must be burnt for you. 

Sic. Nay, pray, be patient : if you refuse your aid 
In this so never-needed help, yet do not 
Upbraid ’s with our distress. But sure, if you 
Would be your country’s pleader, your good tongue. 
More than the instant army we can make. 

Might stop our countryman. 

Men. No, I ’ll not meddle. 

Sic. Pray you, go to him. 

Men. What should I do? 

Bru. Only make trial what your love can do 40 

For Rome, towards Marcius. 

Men. Well, and say that Marcius 

Return me, as Cominius is return’d. 

Unheard ; what then ? 

But as a discontented friend, grief-shot 
With his unkindness ? say ’t be so ? 

is nose the offence] suffer the annoyance, endure the disagreeable odour 
of the undestroyed offensive matter. 

82 Above the moon] Skyhigh. 

87 the instant army we can make] the army we can raise on the instant. 

41 towards Mardus] in regard to Coriolanus. 

44 griej-shet] grief-stricken. 

[ 169 ] 



Sic. Yet your good •will 

Must have that thanks from Rome, after the measure 
As you intended well. 

Men. I ’ll undertake ’t: «. 

I think he ’ll h^r me. Yet, to bite his lip 
And hum at good Cominius, much unhearts me. 

He was not taken well; he had not dined: w 

The veins unfill’d, our blood is cold, and then 
We pout upon the morning, are unapt 
To give or to forgive; but when we have stuff’d 
These pipes and these conveyances of our blood 
With wine and feeding, we have suppler souls 
Than in our priest-like fasts: therefore I’ll watch him 
Till he be dieted to my request. 

And then I’ll set upon him. 

Bru. You know the very road into his kindness. 

And cannot lose your way. 

Men. Good faith. I’ll prove him, eo 

Speed how it will. I shall ere long have knowledge 
Of my success. [ExU,. 

46-47 after the measure . . . well] m proportion to the goodneas of your 

49 hwn] mutter without speaking a word. Cf. Macb.^ IH, vi, 41-42: 

“The cloudy messenger turns me his back, And hums.** 

50 taken well] approached at a favourable moment 

52 We pout upon the morning] We are surly and sullen in the early 

57 dieted to my reque^] well fed so as to be in a humour to grant my request. 
60 prove] make proof or trial of. 

62 my mccess] the result of my effort. 

[ 160 ] 


Com. He ’ll never hear him. 

Sic. Not? 

Com. I tell you, he does sit in gold, his eye 
•Red as ’t would burn Rome ; and his injury 
The gaoler to his pity. I kneel’d befoye him ; 

’T wa^ very faintly he said “Rise;” dismiss’d me 
Thus, with his speechless hand : what he would do. 
He sent in writing after me; what he would not. 
Bound with an oath to yield to his conditions : 

So that all hope is vain. 

Unless his noble mother, and his wife; 

Who, as I hear, mean to solicit him 

63 sit in gol(I\ sit enthroned in imperial splendour. According to Plutarch, 
Coriolanus sat in the Volscian camp “in his chair of state with a mar- 
vellous and unspeakable majesty,” Cf. V, iv, 21, infra: “he sits in 
his state.” 

64-65 his injury . . . pity] the feeling of the wrong done him restrained 
his pity, kept it under lock and key. 

68-69 what he would not . . conditions] The construction is difficult. 
These words with this punctuation must summarise the effect of the 
message which Coriolanus sent in writing after Cominius. He an- 
nounced in effect that he would- do nothing, he would not make 
reasonable terms, being bound by oath to make his fellow- 
countrymen yield to his harsh conditions. Cf. V, ii, 47-48, infra: 
“our general has sworn you out of reprieve and pardon.” “Yield” 
is used with a rare causative significance. Coriolanus again (V, iii, 
14, infra) refers to “the first conditions ” which he offered the 
Romans for them to reject, and some lines below in the same scene 
(11. 80 seq.) he specifies the things he has “forsworn to grant” as 
dismissal of his soldiers, and making terms of surrender with “Rome's 

71 Unless his noble mother] Unless (there be hope in) his noble mother. 

11 [ 161 ] 




For mercy to his country. Therefore, let s 

And with our fair entreaties haste them on. [E^^‘ 



Erder to them, Menenius 

Fikst Sen. Stay : whence are you ? 

Sec. Sen. Stand, and go back. 

Men. You guard like men ; ’t is well : but, by your 

I am an officer of state, and come 
To speak with Coriolanus. 

First Sen. From whence? 


First Sen. You may not pass, you must return : 
our general 

Will no more hear from thence. 

Sec. Sen. You ’ll see your Rome embraced with fare. 


You ’ll speak with Coriolanus. 

Men. “y friends, 

If you have heard your general talk of Rome, 

And of his friends there, it is lots to blanks 
My name hath touch’d your ears : it is Menenius. 
First Sen. Be it so; go back; the virtue of your 

Is not here passable. 

v> to* to M^k*] nnj number of prizes to any number of Wanks. Cf. 
BuA. HI, I, ii. *37: “ aU the worid to nothing. 

[ 16 *] 

•acffilis n 


liSjJN. I tell thee, fellow, 

Thy general is my lover: I have been 

The book of his good acts, whence men have read 

Jlis fame unparallel’d haply amplified ; 

For I have ever verified my friends, 

Of whom he ’s chief, with all the size that verity 
Would’ without lapsing suffer: nay, sometimes, 

Like to a bowl upon a subtle ground, so 

I have tumbled past the throw, and in his praise 
. Have almost stamp’d the leasing : therefore, fellow, 

• I must have leave to pass. 

First Sen. Faith, sir, if you had told as many lies in 
his behalf as you have uttered words in your own, you 
should not pass here ; no, though it were as virtuous to 
lie as to live chastely. Therefore go back. 

Men. Prithee, fellow, remember my name is Men- 
enius, always factionary on the party of your general. 

Sec. Sen. Howsoever you have been his liar, as so 
you say you have, I am one that, telling true under him, 
must say, you cannot pass. Therefore go back. 

14 lover\ dear friend; a common usage. Cf. Jvl. Cat., HI, ii, 13: “Ro- 

mans, countrymen, and lovers.” 

15 The 6ooA:] The recorder or reporter. 

17 verified] supported by true testimony, spoken the truth of. The word 
is not known elsewhere in this sense, and glorified and magnified have 
been suggested in its place. 

80-22 upon a subtle ground . . . leasing] upon a deceptive bowling green, 

I have gone beyond the mark, and in my praise of him almost given 
the stamp of my authority to lying. “Leasing” is an archaic word 
for “lie” or “lying.” Cf. Psalms, iv, 2 How long will ye . . . seek 
after leasing?” and Tw, Night, I, v, 91. 

88 factionary] busy, active. 

[ 168 ] 


AO* V 

Men. Has he dined, canst thou tell ? for I would not 
speak with him till after dinner. 

Fibst Sen. You are a Roman, are you ? 

Men. I am, as thy general is. • 

Fibst Sen. Then you should hate Rome, as he does. 
Can you, when you have pushed out your gates t^e very 
defender of them, and, in a violent popular ignorance, 
given your enemy your shield, think to front his re- 40 
venges with the easy groans of old women, the virginal 
palms of your daughters, or with the palsied interces- 
sion of such a decayed dotant as you seem to be ? Can 
you think to blow out the intended fire your city is . 
ready to flame in, with such weak breath as this ? No, 
you are deceived ; therefore, back to Rome, and prepare 
for your execution: you are condemned; our general 
has sworn you out of reprieve and pardon. 

Men. Sirrah, if thy captain knew I were here, he 
would use me with estimation. so 

Fibst Sen. Come, my captain knows you not. 

Men. I mean, thy general. 

Fibst Sen. My general cares not for you. Back, I 
say, go ; lest I let forth your half-pint of blood ; — 
back, — that ’s the utmost of your having : — back. 

Men. Nay, but, fellow, fellow, — 

40-41 jront his revenges] meet, resist his vengeance. 

41 easy] easily uttered, and therefore unworthy of notice. 

virginal palms] innocent hands raised in supplication. Cf. ^ Hen, FJ, 
V, ii, 52: “tears virginal.” 

43 dotant] dotard. 

50 estimaiion] respect. 

55 the utmost of your having] the utmost you will get 

[ 164 ] 



Eldar G)BioI/ANTO and Autidiub 
Cob. What ’s the matter? 

Men. Now, you companion. I’ll say an errand for you : 
yoB shall know now that 1 am in estimation ; you shall 
perceive that a Jack guardant cannot office me from my eo 
son Coriolanus: guess, but by my entertainment with 
him, if thou standest not i’ the state of hanging, or of 
some death more long in spectatorship and crueller in 
suffering ; behold now presently, and swoon for what ’s 
to come upon thee. The glorious gods sit in hourly 
synod about thy particular prosperity, and love thee no 
worse than thy old father Menenius does ! O my son, 
my son! thou art preparing fire for us ; look thee, here’s 
water to quench it. I was hardly moved to come to 
thee; but being assured none but myself could move7o 
thee, I have b^n blown out of your gates with sighs ; 
and conjure thee to pardon Rome and thy petitionary 

58 companion] fellow. Cf. IV, v, 12, supra, 

I*U say an errand for you] I *11 make a report of you, deliver a message 
in your behalf; in other words, 1*11 tell of your behaviour to me. 

60 o Jack guardant cannot office nw] a Jack on guard cannot keep me 

by his oflSciousness “A Jack guardant’* is almost equivalent to “a 
Jack in office. ” “Office ’* as a verb is rare. 

61 hut by] by b Malone’s insertion in the Folio text. 

63 in spectaiorship] in the act of beholding, from the sightseer’s point of 

65-66 The glorious gods . . . synod] Cf. Pericles, I, i, 10: “The senate 
house of planets all did sit.” Menenius is here addressing Coriolanus. 

71 your gates] the gates of your city Rome. For your gates, the reading 
of the first three Folios, the Fourth Folio reasonably substitutes our 

[ 165 ] 



countiymen. The good gods assuage thy wrath, and 
turn the dregs of it upon this varlet here, — this, who, 
like a block, hath denied my access to thee. 

Coe. Away! 

Men. How! away! 

Cob. Wife, mother, child, I know not. My affairs 
Are servanted to others : though I owe 
My revenge properly, my remission lies 
In Volscian breasts. That we have been familiar, 
Ingrate forgetfulness shall poison rather 
Than pity note how much. Thei'efore be gone. 

Mine ears against your suits are stronger than 
Your gates against my force. Yet, for I loved thee, 
Take this along ; I writ it for thy sake. 

And would have sent it. [Gives him a letter.] Another 
word, Menenius, 

I will not hear thee speak. This man, Aufidius, 

Was my beloved in Rome: yet thou behold’st. 

Auf. You keep a constant temper. 

[Exeunt Coriclanus and Aufidius. 

First Sen. Now, sir, is your name Menenius ? 

Sec. Sen. ’T is a spell, you see, of much power : you 
know the way home again. 

79 Are servanted to] Arc made servants to, serve. 

79-81 though I owe . . . breasts] though my revenge is my personal 
right, the power of pardon (is no affair of mine, but) is the business 
of the Volscians. 

82-83 Ingraie forgetfulness . . . how muck] The forgetfulness of ingrati- 
tude shall kill as by poison rather than that pity should give any sign 
of what the amount of our intimacy was. 

90 a constant temper] a temper of firm faith to your new friends. 

[ 166 ] 



First Sen. Do you hear how we are shent for keep* 
ing your greatness back ? w 

Sec. Sen. What cause, do you think, I have to swoon? 

^ Men. I neither care for the world nor your general : 
for such things as you, I can scarce think there’s any, 
ye’re so slight. He that hath a will tb die by himself 
fears ft not from another: let your general do his worst. loo 
For you, be that you are, long ; and your misery increase 
with your age ! I say to you, as I was said to. Away ! 


First Sen. A noble fellow, I warrant him. 

Sec. Sen. The worthy fellow is our general : he’s the 
rock, the oak not to be wind-shaken. [Exeunt. 

Enter Cobiolanttb, AtJrrDitJS, and others 

Cor. We will before the walls of Rome to-morrow 
Set down our host. My partner in this action, 

You must report to the Volscian lords how plainly 
I have borne this business. 

Aur. Only their ends 

You have respected ; stopp’d your ears against 
The general suit of Rome ; never admitted 
A private whisper, no, not with such friends 
That thought them sure of you. 

94 dherU] shamed, rebuked ; an archaic word. 
90 die by himself] die by his own hand. 

3 plainly] honestly, without sdbterfuge. 

[ 167 ] 


Cob. This last old man, 

Whom with a crack’d heart I have sent to Rome, 

Loved me above the measure of a father, 

Nay, godded me indeed. Their latest refuge 
Was to send him; for whose old love I have, 

Though I showed sourly to him, once more offer’d 
The first conditions, wbdch they did refuse 
And cannot now accept; to grace him only 
That thought he could do more, a very little 
I have yielded to; fresh embassies and suits. 

Nor from the state nor private friends, hereafter 
Will 1 lend ear to. [iSAou^ within^ Ha ! what shout 
this ? 

Shall I be tempted to infringe my vow 
In the same time ’t is made ? I will not. 

Enter, in mourning habits, ViRGn.iA, Volumnia, leading young 
MABcnjB, Valeria, and Attendants 

My wife comes foremost; then the honour’d mould 
Wherein this trunk was framed, and in her hand 
The grandchild to her blood. But out, affection ! 

All bond and privilege of nature, break ! 

Let it be virtuous to be obstinate. 

What is that curtsy worth ? or those doves’ eyes. 

Which can make gods forsworn ? I melt, and am not 
Of stronger earth than others. My mother bows; 

As if Olympus to a molehill should so 

In supplication nod : and my young boy 

Hath an aspect of intercession, which 

Great nature cries “Deny not.’* Let the Volsces 

14 The first oondUicms^ Cf. V; i, 6S-69, and note 

[ 168 ] 







plough Rome, and harrow Italy : I *11 never 
Be such a gosling to obey instinct; but stand, 

As if a man were author of himself 
And knew no other kin. 

ViB. My lord and^husband ! 

CoK. These eyes are not the same I wore in Rome. 

Vie. The sorrow that delivers us thus changed 
Makes you think so. 

Coe. Like a dull actor now 40 

I have forgot my part and I am out, 

Even to a full (hsgrace. Best of my flesh. 

Forgive my tyranny; but do not say, 

For that “Forgive our Romans.” O, a kiss 
Long as my exile, sweet as my revenge ! 

Now, by the jealous queen of heaven, that kiss 
I carried from thee, dear, and my true lip 
Hath virgin’d it e’er since. You gods ! I prate, 

And the most noble mother of the world 

Leave unsaluted : sink, my knee, i’ the earth ; [Kneeh. so 

88-40 These eyes . . . think 50 ] Coriolanus means that his disposition is 
changed, that he looks on things differently. Virgilia interprets his 
use of the word “eyes” quite literally, and explains his imagined 
failure of eyesight to the change wrought in the appearance and dress 
of herself and her companions. 

41-42 I am out ,, , disgrace] I have broken down to my complete dis- 
grace. Cf. Sonnet xxiii, i, 2: “As an unperfect actor ... is put 
besides his part.” For this use of “out,” cf. I L. L,, V, ii, 172 : “They 
do not mark me and that brings me cm/.” 

46 the jealous queen of heaven] Juno whom the Romans regarded as the 
goddess of marriage and the avenger of connubial infidelity- Cf. 
Pmdest II, iii 30: “By Juno that is queen of marriage.” 

48 7 prate] Theobald’s correction of the Folio reading 7 pray. 

[ 169 ] 



Of thy deep duty more impression show 
Than that of common sons. 

VOl. O, stand up blest ! 

Whilst, with no softer cushion than the flint, 

I kneel before thee, and unproperly 

Show duty, as mistaken all this while 

Between the child and parent. [l^rueU. 

Cor. What is this ? 

Your knees to me ? to your corrected son ? 

Then let the pebbles on the hungry beach 
Fillip the stars ; then let the mutinous winds 
Strike the proud cedars ’gainst the fiery sun. 
Murdering impossibility, to make 
What cannot be, slight work. 

VoL. Thou art my warrior; 

I holp to frame thee. Do you know this lady ? 

Cor. The noble sister of Publicola, 

The moon of Rome; chaste as the icicle 

58 hungry] sterile, barren; as in '"hungry soil/’ There is no need to give 

the word the meaning of “cruel,” “hungry for shipwrecks.” The 
insignificance and worthlessness of the pebbles is the essential point. 

59 FiUip the stars] Smite the stars. The figure is of the worthless pebbles 

violently lifted to the height of the stars. 

01 Murdering impossibility] Annihilating impossibility, maJdng every- 
thing possible. 

63 holp] the archaic form of “helped.” Cf. V, vi, SO, infra. 

04 The noble sister of Publicola] Plutarch describes Valeria, sister of an 
eminent Roman general, M. Valerius Publius (sumamed Publicola), 
as “greatly honoured and reverenced among all the Romans.” Ac- 
cording to Plutarch, she suggested the present deputation. 

05 The moon of Rome] Diana, the goddess of chastity, was also goddess of 
the moon. 



That ’s curdled by the frost from purest snow 
And hangs on Dian’s temple ; dear Valeria 1 
VoL. This is a poor epitome of yours, 

* Which by the interpretation of full time 
May show like all yourself. , 

CqK. The god of soliders, to 

With the consent of supreme Jove, inform 
Thy thoughts with nobleness, that thou mayst prove 
To shame unvulnerable, and stick i’ the wars 
Like a great sea-mark, standing every flaw 
And saving those that eye thee ! 

VoL. Your knee, sirrah. 

Coe. That ’s my brave boy ! 

VoL. Even he, your wife, this lady and myself 
Are suitors to you. 

Coe. I beseech you, peace: 

Or, if you ’Id ask, remember this before: 

The thing I have forsworn to grant may never so 

Be held by you denials. Do not bid me 

66 cttrdied] congealed. Thus the Folios. Ptowe substituted curdled^ 
which may be right. 

68-70 This is a poor epUbme . . . yourself] This is a miniature copy of 
you which in the full development of time may present a complete 
image of yourself. Volumnia is, of course, speaking of her little grandson. 

73 stick] remain steadfast. 

74 a great sea-markt standing every flaw] a beacon at sea, resisting every 


80-81 The tkmg . . . denials] You must not reckon me to deny to you 
personally the thing my oath forbids me granting anybody. 

81 denials] Thus the first three Folios. The Fourth reads more reason- 
ably denial. Capell retained denials^ but substituted things for iking 
in line 80. 

[ 171 ] 


ACT r 

Dismiss my soldiers, or capitulate 
Again with Rome’s mechanics : tell me not 
Therein I seem imnatural : desire not 
To allay my rages and revenges with 
Your colder reasons. 

VoL. O, no more, no more ! 

You have said you will not grant us any thing; 

For we have nothing else to ask, but that 
Which you deny already : yet we will ask ; 

That, if you fail in our request, the blame • 

May hang upon your hardness; therefore hear us. 

Cor. Aufidius, and you Volsees, mark; for we’ll 
Hear nought from Rome in private. Your request ? 

VoL. Should we be silent and not speak, our raiment 
And state of bodies would bewray what life 
We have led since thy exile. Think with thyself 
How more unfortunate than all living women 
Are we come hither : since that thy sight, which should 
Make our eyes flow with joy, hearts dance with 

Constrains them weep and shake with fear and sorrow ; 

88 capUvlaie] come to terms, negotiate. 

85 allay] moderate, mitigate. Cf. II, i, 44, gupm: ** allaying Tiber.’’ 

90 fail tn] fail to grant. 

91 hardness] harshness, obduracy. 

94-189 Should we be silent . . . mortal to him] The whole of thb passage 
closely follows, though with some dramatic modification and amplifi- 
cation, the words trf North’s Plutarch. 

95 bewray] betray, display. 

100 Constrains . . . shc^] Constrains the eye to weep and the heart to 



liijiiking the mother, wife and child, to see 
The son, the husband and the father, tearing 
His country’s bowels out. And to poor we 
Thine enmity’s most capital : thou barr’st us 
Our prayers to the gods, which is a comfort 
That all but we enjoy ; for how can we, 

Alas, how can we for our country pray, 

Whereto we are bound, together with thy victory. 
Whereto we are bound ? alack, or we must lose 
The country, our dear nurse, or else thy person, 
Our comfort in the country. We must find 
An evident calamity, though we had 
Our wish, which side should win; for either thou 
Must, as a foreign recreant, be led 
With manacles thorough our streets, or else 
Triumphantly tread on thy country’s ruin, 

And bear the palm for having bravely shed 
Thy wife and children’s blood. For myself, son, 
I purpose not to wait on fortune till 
These wars determine: if I cannot persuade thee 
Rather to show a noble grace to both parts 
Than seek the end of one, thou shalt no sooner 
March to assault thy country than to tread — 

114 recreant] traitor. 

115 thorough] Johnson’s awkward change, for the sake of the metre, of the 
Folio reading through. It is better to retain through and leave the line 
short of a foot, pronouncing manacles ” as a dissyllable and paus- 
ing before ^‘or.” 

120 determine] end, conclude. 

121 both parts] both parties, both sides. 

[ 173 ] 


Trust to ’t, thou shalt not — on thy mother’s wom6, 
That brought thee to this world. 

ViK. Ay, and mine, 

That brought you forth thi? boy, to keep your name * 
Living to time. 

Boy. Ji' shall not tread on me; 

I’ll run away till I am bigger, but then I’ll fight. 

Cor. Not of a ■vyoman’s tenderness to be. 

Requires nor child nor woman’s face to see. iso 

I have sat too long. [Rising. 

VoL. Nay, go not from us thus. 

If it were so that our request did tend 

To save the Romans, thereby to destroy 

The Volsces whom you serve, you might condemn us. 

As poisonous of your honour : no ; our suit 

Is, that you reconcile them: while the Volsces 

May say “This mercy we have show’d,’’ the Romans, 

“This we received;’’ and each in either side 

Give the all-hail to thee, and cry “Be blest 

For making up this peace ! ’’ Thou know’st, great son. 

The end of war’s uncertain, but this certain, ui 

That if thou conquer Rome, the benefit 

Which thou shalt thereby reap is such a name 

Whose repetition will be dogg’d with curses ; 

Whose chronicle thus writ: “The man was noble. 

But with his last attempt he wiped it out. 

Destroy’d his country, and his name remains 

139 the all-hail] the full note of greeting. 

146 with his last attempt . . out] with his last enterprise he cancelled 

his noble reputation. 

£ 174 ] 


To the ensuing age abhorr’d.” Speak to me, son ; 

Thou hast affected the fine strains of honour. 

To imitate the graces of the gods ; iso 

. To tear with thunder the wide cheeks o’ the air, 

And yet to charge thy sulphur with a, bolt 
That should but rive an oak. Why dost not speak ? 
Think’st thou it honourable for a noble man 
Still to remember wrongs ? Daughter, speak you : 

He cares not for your weeping. Speak thou, boy: 
Perhaps thy childishness will move him more 
Than can our reasons. There’s no man in the world 
More bound to ’s mother, yet here he lets me prate 
Like one i’ the stocks. Thou hast never in thy life leo 
Show’d thy dear mother any courtesy; 

When she, poor hen, fond of no second brood. 

Has cluck’d thee to the wars, and safely home, 

Loaden with honour. Say my request’s unjust. 

And spurn me back : but if it be not so. 

Thou art not honest, and the gods will plague thee. 
That thou restrain’st from me the duty which 
To a mother’s part belongs. He turns away : 

149 the fine strains^ the refined and generous impulses. Cf. Troil, and 
Cress., n, ii, 154: “so degenerate a strain as this.” 

152 charge thy suljphur^ charge thy lightning (which preceded and was 
thought to propel the thunderbolt). Charge is Theobald’s correction 
of the Folio reading change. The figure is of the divine omnipotence 
which can rend asunder the air of heaven, and yet can be satisfied 
with the comparatively insignificant labour of splitting an oak tree. 
Great and small deeds lie equally within the scope of the graces of 
the gods. 

160 [Alee one i* ike stocks] Like one in some ignominious position. 

[ 175 ] 



Down, ladies ; let us shame him with our knees. 

To his surname Coriolanus ’longs more pride i70 

Than pity to our prayers. Down; an end; 

This is the last; so we will home to Rome, . 

And die among pur neighbours. Nay, behold ’s: 

This boy, that cannot tell what he would have, ^ 

But kneels and holds up hands for fellowship. 

Does reason our petition with more strength 
Than thou hast to deny ’t. Come, let us go ; 

This fellow had a Volscian to his mother; 

His wife is in Corioli, and his child 

Like him by chance. Yet give us our dispatch ; iso 

I am hush’d until our city be a-fire, 

And then I’ll speak a little. 

Cor. [After holding her by the hand, sUeni\ O mother, 
mother ! 

What have you done ? Behold, the heavens do ope. 

The gods look down, and this unnatural scene 
They laugh at. O my mother, mother ! O ! 

You have won a happy victory to Rome; 

But, for your son, believe it, O, believe it. 

Most dangerously you have with him prevail’d. 

If not most mortal to him. But let it come. 

Aufidius, though I cannot make true wars, iso 

I ’ll frame convenient peace. Now, good Aufidius, 

Were you in my stead, would you have heard 
A mother less ? or granted less, Aufidius ? 

176-177 Does reason ... to deny V] There is more force of reason in the 
boy’s support of our petition than in your resolve to refuse it. 

179-180 his child lAke him by chance] his child resembles him by acci- 
dent, is not really his son. 



Aup. I was moved withal. 

Cor. I dare be sworn you were : 

And, sir, it is no little thing to make 
Mine eyes to sweat compassion. But, good sir. 

What peace you’ll make, advise me; for my part. 

I’ll npt to Rome, I’ll back with you; and pray you. 
Stand to me in this cause, O mother ! wife ! 

Auf. [Aside] I am glad thou hast set thy mercy and 
thy honour *oo 

At difference in thee: out of that I’ll work 
Myself a former fortune. [The Ladies make signs to CorioUmm. 

Cob. [To Volumnia, Virgilia, <fcc.] Ay, by and by: — 
But we will drink together; and you shall bear 
A better witness back than words, which we 
On like conditions will have counter-seal’d. 

Come, enter with us. Ladies, you deserve 
To have a temple built you : all the swords 
In Italy, and her confederate arms. 

Could not have made this peace. [Exeunt. 

199 Stand to me in this cause] Support me in this business, 

201-202 I'll work . . . fortune] I will take advantage of this course of 
events to regain my fortner position of independence. Cf V, v, 49, 

20S we will drink together] Apparently Coriolanus proposes to drink the 
healths of Aufidius and the Volscian leaders. 

206-207 Ladies . . . huHt you] According to Plutarch, a temple to For- 
tune was built by order of the Senate in honour of these ladies* inter- 
cession. The edifice was built at their own expense ; for they refused 
the offer of the Senate to bear the cost. 


[ 177 ] 


ACf V 


Enter Mbnenius and Sicmitrs • 

Men. See yoifyoxid coign o’ the Capitol, yond comCT- 
stone ? 

Sic. Why, what of that? 

Men. If it be possible for you to displace it with your 
little finger, there is some hope the ladies of Rome, 
especially his mother, may prevail with him. But I say . 
there is no hope in’t: our throats are sentenced, and 
stay upon execution. 

Sic. Is ’t possible that so short a time can alter the 
condition of a man? lo 

Men. There is differency between a grub and a 
butterfly ; yet your butterfly was a grub. This Marcius 
is grown from man to dragon : he has wings ; he ’s 
more than a creeping thing. 

Sic. He loved his mother dearly. 

Men. So did he me: and he no more remembers 
his mother now than an eight-year-old horse. The 
tartness of his face sours ripe grapes : when he walks, 
he moves like an engine, and the ground shrinks before 
his treading : he is able to pierce a corselet with his eye ; 20 
talks like a knell, and his hum is a battery. He sits in 

8 stay up(yii execyti(yn\ only wait for execution. 

10 <xmditi<m\ disposition. 

11 differency] Thus the First Folio. The later Folios have the ordinary 

form difference. 

17 on eighUyear-old horse] sc. remembers his dam. 

19 on engine] sc. of war, a battering-ram, 

[ 178 ] 

scffiiE rv 


his state, as a thing made for Alexander. What he bids 
be done, is finished with his bidding. He wants nothing 
of a god but eternity and a heaven to throne in. 

Sic. Yes, mercy, if you report him , truly. 

Men. I paint him in the character. Mark what 
mercy his mother shall bring from him: there is no 
more mercy in him than there is milk in a male tiger ; 
that shall our poor city find : and all this is long of you. 

Sic. The gods be good unto us ! 

Men. No, in such a case the gods will not be good 
unto us. When we banished him, we respected not 
them; and, he returning to break our necks, they re- 
spect not us. 

Enter a Messenger 

Mess. Sir, if you ’Id save your life, fly to your house: 
The plebeians have got your fellow-tribune, 

And hale him up and down, all swearing, if 
The Roman ladies bring not comfort home. 

They’ll give him death by inches. 

Enter another Messenger 

Sic. What’s the news ? 

Sec. Mess. Good news, good news ; the ladies have 

22 date] chair of state. Cf. V, i, 63, ewpra: “he does sit in gold.” 

a» a thing made for Alexander] like a thing intended to represent 
Alexander the Great, like a statue of Alexander. 

2$ m the charader] in the true character. 

29 long of you] along of you, owing to you. 

[ 179 ] 


A&i r * 

The Volscians are dislodged, and Marcius gone ; 40 

A merrier day did never yet greet Rome, 

No, not the expulsion of the Tarquins. 

Sic. ^ Friend, , 

Art thou certain, this is true? is it most certain? 

Sec. Mess. As certain as I know the sun is fire: 
Where have you lurk’d, that you make doubt of it ? 
Ne’er through an arch so hurried the blown tide. 

As the recomforted through the gates. Why, hark you ! 

[Trumpets; hautboys; drums beat; all together. 
The trumpets, sackbuts, psalteries and fifes, 

Tabors and cymbals and the shouting Romans, 

Make the sun dance. Hark you ! [A shout within. 

Men. This is good news : 50 

I will go meet the ladies. This Volumnia 
Is worth of consuls, senators, patricians, 

A city full ; of tribunes, such as you, 

A sea and land full. You have pray’d well to-day: 

This morning for ten thousand of your throats 
I ’Id not have given a doit. Hark, how they joy ! 

[Music still, with shouts. 
Sic. First, the gods bless you for your tidings ; next. 
Accept my thankfulness. 

49-47 Ne’er through ... the gates] Doubtless a reference to the noisy 
rush of water through the arches of London bridge. Cf. hucrece, 1667- 
1668: "As through an arch the violent roaring tide Outruns the eye 
that doth behold his haste.” 

60 Make the sun dance] The sim was believed to dance on Easter day. 
Cf. Suckling’s Ballad on a Wedding, verse 8; “But oh I she dances 
such a way. No sun upon an Easter day Is half so fine a sij^t” 

sow® ^ 


*Sec. MbSS. Sir, we have all 

Great cause to give great thanks. 

Sic. They -are near the city ? 

Sbc. Mess. Almost at point to enter. 

Sic. W)e will meet them, 

And lielp the joy. * ^Exeunt. 



Enter two Senators with Volumnia, Virgilia, Valeria, &c. pass- 
ing over the stage, followed by Patricians and others 

First Sen. Behold our patroness, the life of Rome ! 
Call all your tribes together, praise the gods. 

And make triumphant fires ; strew flowers before them : 
Unshout the noise that banish’d Marcius, 

Repeal him with the welcome of his mother; 

Cry “Welcome, ladies, welcome!” 

All. Welcome, ladies, 

Welcome ! [A flourish with drums and trumpets. Exeunt. 

Enter Tullus AtrFiDiiis, with Attendants 

Auf. Go tell the lords o’ the city T am here: 
Deliver them this paper: having read it, 

60 at paint to enter] on the point of entering. 

Scene v ] Dyoe first noted the beginning of a new short scene here. 

[ 181 ] 



Bid them repair to the market-place, where I, 

Even in theirs and in the commons’ ears, 

"Will vouch the truth of it. Him I accuse 

The city ports by this hath enter’d, and , 

Intends to appeal- before the people, hoping 

To purge himseli with words : dispatch. 

[ExeurU Attendants, 

Enter three or four Gtnspirators of Aufidtos’ faction 
Most welcome ! 

First Con. How is it with our general ? 

Auf. Even so lo 

As with a man by his own alms empoison’d. 

And with his charity slain. 

Sec. Con. Most noble sir. 

If you do hold the same intent wherein 
You wish’d us parties, we ’ll deliver you 
Of your great danger. 

Aur. Sir, I cannot tell : 

We must proceed as we do find the people. 

Third Con. The people will remain uncertain whilst 
’Twixt you there’s difference; but the fall of either 
Makes the survivor heir of all. 

Aur. I know it. 

And my pretext to strike at him admits fo 

A good construction. I raised him, and I pawn’d 
Mine honour for his truth : who being so heighten’d, 

6 porto] gates; so I, vii, 1, supra. 

lS-14 If you do hold . . . J>arties] If you hold to the purpose (of killing 
Coriolanus) in which you desired our co-operation. 

21 A good coTtstrudion] A plausible explanation. 

[ 18 £] 


H*e water’d his new plants with dews of flattery, 
Seducing so my friends ; and, to this end. 

He bow’d his nature, never known bWore 
, But to be rough, unswayable and fret. 

Third Con. Sir, his stoutness I 
When he did stand for consul, which Ihe lost 
By lack of stooping, — 

Auf, That I would have spoke of ; 

Being banish’d for ’t, he came unto my hearth ; 
Presented to my knife his throat : I took him. 

Made him joint-servant with me, gave him way 
In all his own desires, nay, let him choose 
Out of my files, his projects to accomplish. 

My best and freshest men, served his designments 
In mine own person, holp to reap the fame 
Which he did end all his ; and took some pride 
To do myself this wrong: till at the last 

iiS He xoater'd . . . fjaUery\ He cherished his new allies by plentifully 
flattering them, Mr. Craig quotes North’s translation of Plutarch’s 
Life of Cato (ed. 1595, p. 373): “he could make men water their 
'plarits (i. c., behave submissively) that heard him.” 

£5 how'i\ bent, adapted. 

jree] outspoken. 

34 my fles\ my musters. 

35-36 served his designments . . . per«m] helped his plans with my per- 
sonal service. 

36 holp] the archaic form of “helped.” Cf. V, iii, 63, supra. 

37 Which he did end all Aw] The whole of which he garnered or stored for 

himself. “End” is still common in dialect as a verb meaning “to get 
in,” or “ store,” crops. Shakespeare also uses in the same sense the 
verb “in,” of which “end” is really only a dialectic variation. Cf. 
AWs WeUf I, iii, 43: “to in the crop.” 

[ 183 ] 





I seem’d his follower, not partner, and 

He waged me with his countenance, as if 40 

I had been mercenary. 

First Con. • So he did, my lord: 

The army marypU’d at it, and in the last. 

When he had carried Rome and that we look’d , 

For no less spoil than glory — 

Aup. There was it: 

For which my sinews shall be stretch’d upon him. 

At a few drops of women’s rheum, which are 
As cheap as lies, he sold the blood and labour 
Of our great action : therefore shall he die. 

And I’ll renew me in his fall. But hark ! 

[Drums and trumpets sounds with great shouts of the people. 
First Con. Your native town you enter’d like a post, 50 
And had no welcomes home ; but he returns, 

Splitting the air with noise. 

Sec. Con. And patient fools, 

WThose children he hath slain, their base throats tear 
With giving him glory. 

Third Con. Therefore, at your vantage. 

Ere he express himself, or move the people 
With what he would say, let him feel your sword, 

40-41 He waged me . mercenary] He paid me (like a hireling) with 
his patronising favour. 

43 carried] conquered, taken. Cf. IV, vii, 27, supra: “he’ll carry Rome.’* 

43 For which . • . upon him] For which I will attack him to the full 
extent of my strength. 

47 As cheap as lies] Cf. Hamlely III, ii, 348: “it is easy as l)dng/* 

50 a post] a postboy, a messenger, 

54 at your vantage] at an opportunity favourable to you. 




When he lies along, 

Which we will second. 

After your way his tale pronounced ^hall bury 
His reasons with his body. \ 

Auf. Say no metre: 

Here come the lords. \ 


* Enter the Lords of the eUy 

All the Lords. You are most welcome home. 

Auf. I have not deserved it. 

But, worthy lords, have you with heed perused 
What I have written to you ? 

Lords. We have. 

First Lord. And grieve to hear ’t. 

What faults he made before the last, I think 
Might have, found easy fines : but there to end 
Where he was to begin, and give away 
The benefit of our levies, answering us 
With our own charge, making a treaty where 
There was a yielding, — this admits no excuse. 

Aur. He approaches: you shall hear him. 70 

Enter Cobiolanus, marching with drum and colours; the com- 
moners being with him 

Cor. Hail, lords ! I am return’d your soldier ; 

No more infected with my country’s love 

58 After your way his tale pronounced] The tale that may be told of him 
narrated in your own words. The ironical expression is equivalent 
to “ your statement of his case ” or “the account you give of him.” 

65 easy fines] easy condonation. 

67-68 answering . . . charge] making us pay our own expenses for the 
war, giving us no return for our own money. 

[ 186 ] 


ACf T 

Than when I parted hence, but still subsisting 
Under your great jbommand. You are to know, 

That prosperouslr I have attempted, and 
With bloody passage led your wars even to « 

The gates of Ro|ae. Our spoils we have brought 

Do more than counterpoise a full third part 
The charges of the action. We have made peace, 

With no less honour to the Antiates so 

Than shame to the Romans: and we here deliver. 
Subscribed by the consuls and patricians, 

Together with the seal o’ the senate, what 
We have compounded on. 

Auf. Read it not, noble lords; 

But tell the traitor, in the highest degree 
He hath abused your powers. 

CoH. Traitor ! how now ! 

Auf. Ay, traitor, Marcius! 

Coe. Marcius ! 

Auf. Ay, Marcius, Caius Marcius: dost thou 

I’ll grace thee with that robbery, thy stol’n name 
Coriolanus, in Corioli? » 

You lords and heads o’ the state, perfidiously 
He has betray’d your business, and ^ven up. 

For certain drops of salt, your city Rome, 

I say “your city,’’ to his wife and mother; 

73 parted] departed. 

93 drops of sbU] tears. Cf. Lear, IV, vi, 196; “man of 

[ 186 ] 


Breaking his oath and resolution, like 
A twist of rotten silk; never admittiVg 
Counsel o’ the war; but at his nurse b tears 
He whined and roar’d away your vicjory; 

That pages blush’d at him, and men jpf heart 
Look’d wondering each at other. 

CoH. Hear’st thou, Mars ? loo 

Auf. Name not the god, thou boy of tears ! 

Cor. Ha ! 

Auf. No more. 

Cor. Measureless liar, thou hast made my heart 
Too great for what contains it. “Boy !’’ O slave ! 
Pardon me, lords, ’t is the first time that ever 
I was forced to scold. Your judgements, my grave 

Must give this cur the lie ; and his own notion — 

Who wears my stripes impress’d upon him ; that 
Must bear my beating to his grave — shall join 
To thrust the lie unto him. no 

First Lord. Peace, both, and hear me speak. 

Cor. Cut me to pieces, Volsces; men and lads. 

Stain all your edges on me. “Boy!” false hound! 

If you have writ your annals true, ’t is there. 

That, like an eagle in a dove-cote, I 

06 twist] skein. 

100 other] Rowe*s correction of the Folio reading others. 

101 boy of tears] cry-baby, blubbering boy. “Boy” is a term of con- 
tempt. Cf. Avl. and Cleop., IV, i, 1; “He calls me 6oy.” 

107 notion] sense, understandmg. 

118 your ^es] your sword-blades. 





Flutter’d your Volsciaus in Corioli ; 

Alone I did it. ‘)®oy ! ” 

Auf. f Why, noble lords, 

Will you be put p mind of his blind fortune, 

Which was yourlshame, by this unholy braggart, 

’Fore your own eyes and ears? , 

All Consp. Let him die for ’t. 120 

All the People. “Tear him to pieces.” “Do it 
presently.” “He killed my son.” “My daughter.” 
“He killed my cousin Marcus.” “ He killed my father.” 

Sec. Lobd. Peace, ho ! no outrage : peace ! 

The man is noble, and his fame folds-in 
This orb o’ the earth. His last offences to us 
Shall have judicious hearing. Stand, Aufidius, 

And trouble not the peace. 

Coe. O that I had him. 

With six Aufidiuses, or more, his tribe, 

To use my lawful sword ! 

Auf. Insolent villain ! iso 

All Consp. Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill him ! 

[The Conspirators draw, and kill Coriolanus: 

* Aufdvus stands on his body. 

Lobds. Hold, hold, hold, hold ! 

Auf. My noble masters, hear me speak. 

First Lord. OTullus, — 

Sec. Lord. Thou hast done a deed whereat valour 
will weep. 

lie Fluttered] Thus the Third and Fourth Folios. The First and Second 
Folios weakly read Flatter'd. 

125-126 folds-in , . . earth] embraces, overspreads the whole world. 

127 fudidous hearing] judicial inquiry or trial. 

[ 188 ] 



Thibd Lord. Tread not upon him. Masters all, be 
quiet ; 

Put up your swords. \ 

AtJP. My lords, when you shall k iow — as in this 
rage 1 

Provoked by him, you cannot — the great danger 
Which this man’s life did owe you, you ’ll rejoice 
That he is thus cut off. Please it your honours 
To call me to your senate. I’ll deliver i40 

Myself your loyal servant, or endure 
Your heaviest censure. 

First Lord. Bear from hence his body; 

And mourn you for him : let him be regarded 
As the most noble corse that ever herald 
Did follow to his urn. 

Sec. Lord. His own impatience 

Takes from Aufidius a great part of blame. 

Let ’s make the best of it. 

Aur. My rage is gone. 

And I am struck with sorrow. Take him up: 

Help, three o’ the chiefest soldiers ; I ’ll be one. 

Beat thou the drum, that it speak mournfully : I 50 

Trail your steel pikes. Though in this city he 

188 did owe yon] made you liable to, exposed you to. 

144-145 As the noble corse ... to his um] Shakespeare associates with 
HomaD funeral customs the prominent share taken in the funeral cere- 
monies of great persons in his own day by the professional herald who 
pronounced the formal title of the deceased when the co8Sui was laid in 
the grave. 

145 His own impatience] Coriolanus* irascibility. 

151 Trail your steel pikes] Soldiers at funerals dragged their pikes along 

■ [189] 


AO® ▼ 

; ‘ 

Hath widow’d and unchilded many a one, 

Which to this how bewail the injuiy. 

Yet he shall hav« a noble memoiy. 

Assist. f [Exeunt, bearing the body of Corioiame . « 

A dead march amndfid. 

the ground when attending the funeral of a comrade aa nowadBjia 
they reverse their muskets. 

IM a nMe memory\ a noble memorial. Cf. IV, It, 71, and V, i, 17, tHpro. 




Inteoduction to The Sonnets by John 
Davidson ix 

Text of the Play 1 


N author always composes his 
autobiography, more or less fiilly, 
according to the nature and ex- 
tent of his writings ; because 
whatsoever a man writes is auto- 
biographic, Thus the sincerity of 
an author’s personal utterance 
undergoes an immediate and in- 
fallible test ; it is confronted with 
the witness of his works. Con- 
fessions, reminiscences, biographies 
and autobiographies of authors 
must all answer the exhaustive 

cross-examination of every paragraph or character they 
have written or created. The man is in his books, and 

if the biographic or autobiographic matter is not meas- 
urably a synoptical index to them, the trial of truth 
between the two puts the one or the other out of court. 
Where shall we look for a man’s life if not in his works ? 

Napoleon will be found in his campaigns, battles, code ; 



Shakespeare, in his^lays and poems. It is extraordi- 
nary how Englishmen, cultured and uncultured, have 
clung to the idea, to the hope that Shakespeare is not to 
be found in his works. Probably they have Hugged this 
illusion to their hearts because they beheld in moments 
of honesty behind the veil of the dramas and sonnets 
something — very unlike themselves. Shakespeare — it 
was Emerson who gave the saying currency — is the 
most truly known of all English men of letters ; he and 
his work are one indissolubly. The true Samuel Johnson 
we shall never know. The creative artist, Boswell, has 
made a palimpsest of the lexicographer’s works, writing, 
as it were, the illuminated life of a saint on the rough 
hide of Behemoth. The true Carlyle it may be difficult 
to recover. Froude has scored across the works of the 
most chivalrous figure among English prosemen, Don 
Quixote, sane and a prophet, the unworthy story of a 
soured Saneho Panza. But it is impossible not to know 
Shakespeare as far as man can know him. No biography 
by some dazzled or envious contemporary exists to mis- 
lead us. The plays, the poems, the sonnets — the style 
is here the man without alloy ; and in the sonnets we 
come nearest to him. These are the personal utterances 
of him who made Hamlet and Parolles, and the multi- 
tude between; of the man who found the world an 
empty nut, and in it placed a kernel which human intel- 
ligence has not yet devoured and digested. 

The aesthetic value of Shakespeare’s sonnets is com- 
mensurate with their autobiographic truth. This does 
not imply any sullen reflection on Shakespeare’s char- 



acter. An unworthy spirit of criucism has long been 
puzzling over the matter and asserting more loudly than 
its warrant that there is a hateful revelation in the son- 
nets. Parolles seems to say to Hamlet, “ It is I who am 
Shakespeare, not you. As I exclaimed three hundred 
years ago, 

* Who knows himself a braggart 
Let him fear this ; for it will come to pass 
That every braggart shall be found an ass/ 

I have come into my own, my lord. Hitherto Shake- 
spearean has meant simply Hamletian. The good-na- 
tured world — for the actual world is at the best and in 
the gross exceedingly thoughtless and agreeable — I say, 
my lord, the good-natured world, highly flattered at its 
supposed reflection, dressed its mind in the magic mirror 
of Hamlet, and fancied itself Shakesperean. But Ham- 
let and Prospero are only the vanity of Shakespeare; 
1, Parolles, am the true Shakespeare; and I can prove 
it. I am the true Shakespeare ; because, with the ex- 
ception of the nurse in ‘ Romeo and Juliet,’ who is liker 
Shakespeare than any other of his creations saving my- 
self, I am the only really live character in all his plays. 
Falstaif, Richard, Juliet, lago, Nym, yourself, my lord 
Hamlet, are merely fairies, good, bad, or indifferent. I 
do not mean that Shakespeare intended me for himself : 
I am the sub-consciousness, the inmost fibre of the man 
— the Judas of very self, which every artist, unbeknown, 
creates for his own betrayal. This men begin to recog- 
nize ; and the moment they are fully aware of the self- 



deception of their Hamleto-Shakespeareanism, the empire 
of Shakespeare is destroyed, and the world becomes once 
more an empty nut; except that I remain, the self-pilloried 
monster, the 3udas-Shakespeare who cozened the foolish 
world for three hundred years. Oh I there is no question 
of it ! That 1 am Shakespeare is made apparent to'any 
awakened intelligence by the fact that what was sub- 
conscious as ParoUes becomes conscious as a palliated, a 
self-excused characteristic of the loquacious, casual Ham- 
let — the mirror, the false, the magic mirror which 
Shakespeare held up to nature. But my main proof, my 
impregnable rock, is the book of sonnets ; they are the 
evidence in chief for my identity with Shakespeare. In 
them I have written myself down infamous in the last 
degree ; the hack and slave of Southampton and Pem- 
broke; the go-between for courtiers and their mis- 
tresses; a fatuous fool; a debased sensualist, a . . . ” 
Here the look in Hamlet’s eyes would arrest the noisy 
ape ; and Hamlet himself would probably reply : “ Un- 
derstand, Parolles, that Shakespeare was greater than 
either you or I ; that you, by many degrees inferior to the 
average sensual man, are less alive than almost any other 
character Shakespeare portrayed, lacking as you do both 
conscience and imagination. Beside you Pistol is beau- 
tiful and Bardolf sweet. What have we to do with the 
faults of Shakespeare ? Who is there at all that shall 
judge him ? It is law all the world over that men must 
be judged by their peers. Where are those who may 
sit with Shakespeare ? Dante, Goethe, Hugo, Ibsen are 
parochial beside him. Caesar, Charlemagne, Cromwell, 



Napoleon are of a different ordei/. I myself am likest 
Shakespeare of all the beings he made. Those tables on 
which I scribbled against the wall of Elsinore, that one 
may smile and smile and be a villain, are perhaps the 
very tables on which Shakespeare wrote his sonnets. So 
extraordinary a being would keep an extraordinary com- 
monplace book. His sonnets are memoranda written 
principally for himself, and although some of the matter 
is re-produced in the plays, the meaning of much of it 
can only be guessed at. Why may not the persons 
of the sonnets be the symbols of a poetic shorthand 
of which the key perished with Shakespeare himself? 
Never in any case read into the sonnets a loathsome 
meaning. Neither for purposes of botanical study, nor 
for the satisfaction of the senses of sight or smell, is it 
helpful to daub a flower with the manure out of which 
it grew.” 

Why did Shakespeare choose this form for a personal 
utterance? It was hardly a choice. The sonnet, a 
poetic artifice of high quality, which obtained a lasting 
vogue from its noble employment by Petrarch, degener- 
ated during the sixteenth century into a species ot vern 
de socidtd and ravaged the literature of Europe like a 
plague. It was not a mere malady of form. There was 
no sonnet peculiar to each nation. The poets of Italy, 
France, and England all wTote the same European son- 
net, taking, it might almost be said, a greater formal 
than material license. Character, intellect, genius were 
powerless agai ns t the disease. Michael Angelo, the 
greatest and most various force in art, and William 

r xiii 1 


Shakespeare, the on| miraculous, undefinable intelli- 
gence, of the modem world, could not escape it. In the 
sinewy intellect, the concentrated persondity, the en- 
grained health and deep religious mood of Michael 
Angelo this malady of the sonnet was transmuted at 
once into an expression of spiritual passion ; whereag in 
the limitless soul of Shakespeare it had ample scope to 
be itself as well as the personal utterance of the master- 
poet. Risking the contagion in an experimental essay 
or two, Shakespeare found himself with a -fever in the 
brain fated to run its intermittent course ; for this pass- 
ing inoculation of the fancy, as it doubtless seemed to 
him at first, entered into the very marrow of his exist- 
ence and issued in poetry that sighs in the ear of Time 
forever the anguish of the soul of Shakespeare, like the 
tidal sighing of the ocean stretched on “the rack of this 
tough world.” 

Platonic friendship, the adulation of a patron, a sexual 
passion and the pleasures and pains, the praise and blame 
of love, with illustrations from the shows of Nature, the 
seasons of the year, and a toyshop of conceits were the 
warp and woof of the fashionable, seductive sonnet of 
Europe. But as Shakespeare was Shakespeare, loved his 
patron and suffered an actual passion for his mistress, all 
these common characteristics became ih his hands un- 
common and beautiful. From the very first sonnet Shake- 
speare’s profound affection looks out wistfully, with a 
mingled air of intense admiration and intense pathos : — 

" Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament. 

And onlj herald to the gftudy spring." 



^ 1 

The cry is muffled in the flowing convention of these 
lines; but it is Adam’s cry to Orlando: — 

Master^ go on, and I will follow thee 
To the last gasp with truth and loyalty/* 

It is the voice of Viola : — 

" And I most jocund, apt and willingly 
To do you rest a thousand deaths would die ; *' 

the voice of Antonio, of Imogen, of Kent, of Flavius, of 
Brutus’s Portia, of all self-sacrifice. 

Lesser men, Swift or Frederick the Great, could put 
up with makeshifts or forego the friendship of men alto- 
gether ; but not Cffisar, not Shakespeare. Among those 
near Shakespeare in degree and vocation, good comrades 
as they and he doubtless were, not one of them could be 
the companion of his soul. Rank, wealth, beauty, youth; 
the pathos of distance which extorted that resolute meas- 
ured complaint — 

Thence comes it that my name receives a brand, 

And almost thence my nature is subdued 
To what it works in like the dyer’s hand — ** 

drew him also heart and mind to the magnificent and 
genial aristocrat whose good-will gave him the command 
of his theatre. A nature so great and perfect in its 
humanity as Shakespeare’s must surrender itself entirely 
in friendship as in love. The faults, the offences of his 
friend are so many knots and rivets of his affection. He 

searches in himself for the reasons of his friend’s indiffer- 

r vv 1 



ence ; and when h4 finds that there are others who share 
an equal intimacy and are even sometimes preferred, it is 
upon himself his Jealousy turns — 

" I grant, sweet love, thy lovely argument 
Deserves the travail of a worthier pen ; *' 

but although in his despondent mood he desire# “this 
man’s art and that man's scope,” he knows well there is 
no “ worthier pen,” and must say so, turning it off with 
a conceit — 

" But when your countenance filled up his line. 

Then lacked I matter ; that enfeebled mine/* 

Shakespeare’s friendship for his patron was as infinite 
as his soul, and this infinite affection finds in the eighty- 
eighth sonnet expression so terrible that our souls shud- 
der at it ; — 

When thou shalt be disposed to set me light. 

And place my merit in the eye of scorn, 

Upon thy side against myself 1 ’ll fight 

And prove thee virtuous, though thou art forsworn. 

With mine own weakness being best acquainted, 

Upon thy part I can set down a story 
Of faults concealed wherein I am attainted. 

That thou in losing me shalt win much gloiy * 

And I by this will be a gainer too ; 

For bending all my loving thoughts on thee. 

The injuries that to myself 1 do, 

Doing thee vantage, double-vantage me. 

Such is my love, to thee I so belong, 

That for thy right myself will bear all wrong.*’ 

“ Out of his weakness and his melancholy ” this cry is 
wrung. It is not only his capricious Mend, it is man- 



kind Shakespeare addresses. He was» utterly alone ; the 
fate of supreme genius ; to him intolerable, being most 
human, most humane. How utterly alone, the second 
•series of sonnets shows. 

Shakespeare had no personal experience of a spiritual 
regard, like that of Michael Angelo for Vittoria Col- 
lonna ; the “ public means which public manners breeds ” 
made that perhaps impossible. The dark lady of the 
sonnets, while her power lasted, held him bound in sen- 
sual chains. As to his friend, so to his mistress, it was 
a complete surrender : — 

Can’st thou, O cruel ! say I love thee not. 

When I against myself with thee partake ? ” 

No question, there was degradation and bitter shame in 
Shakespeare’s passion for this 

Whitely wanton with a velvet brow 

And two pitch balls stuck in her face for eyes." 

He strove to transcend his senses ; to see her other than 
she was, with the strangest, ineffectual, half-humorous, 
half-ludicrous imagery : — 

" And truly not the morning sun of heaven 

Better becomes the grey cheeks of the east, 

Not that full star that ushers in the even 
Doth half that glory to the sober west 
As those two mourning eyes become thy face." 

His soul was in arms against her from the beginning, 
and the re-action after her caresses (Sonnet CXXIX*) is 

[ 3cvii ] 


the breathless recovery of a half-throttled creature es- 
caped from a pjrthon. But escape was not easy ; even 
when she had become the mistress of his friend he was 
powerless in the strong toil of her fascination. Not 
until his soul seemed entirely quelled (Sonnet CLI.) 
could the passion end ; then indeed it went out, . like a 
smoky lamp that falls with a crash : — 

For I have sworn thee fair ; more perjured I 
To swear against the truth so foul a lie/' 

That is the concluding couplet of the himdred and fifty- 
second sonnet : the two remaining sonnets do not belong 
to the series. The passion ends ; executed ; cut off ; 
forgotten. Not so, the friendship : Shakespeare cherishes 
the memory of that ; and the farewell sonnet (CXXVI.) 
is a promise of undying affection. 

It seems impossible to avoid the conclusion, even if it 
were desirable to do so, that the sonnets of Shakespeare, 
often careless in expression, and now and again in a half- 
earnest mood as of one writing to exercise a gift or out of 
sheer ennvi, contain a record essentially honest and some- 
times terribly sincere of two interwoven experiences 
which touched him profoundly. They are part of the 
schooling of Shakespeare ; the seed-plot of Hamlet and 
Horatio, Brutus and Cassius, of Antony and Cleopatra, 
of Edmund, Edgar, Goneril, Regan. We need not fit 
names either to the friend or to the mistress : the friend 
is man ; the mistress, woman. The friendship and the 
love of Shakespeare, the supreme genius, could not fail 

[ xviii ] 


to yield the saddest story ; there was no companion for 
him among men; no mate among women. 

Throughout the sonnets Shakespeare, as was his wont, 
is«much more interested in the matter than the manner. 
It is quite clear also that in following the fashion he 
adopted a, form which hampered the movement of his 
mind, and crippled his imagination. The feebleness of 
the tag which concludes, is in sad contrast with the 
splendid energy which opens, almost every sonnet. But 
even where the sonnets are sequential it is impossible to 
- read them pleasantly without this rudimentary appen- 
dix : the resolution of the underlying dissonance in the 
alternate rhymes by the consonant chord of the couplet 
will be found upon trial more agreeable than the super- 
session of the emptiest tag. The aesthetic loom of the 
sonnets is a civil war between the poet — that is, the 
whole man, Shakespeare — and the brain of Shakespeare ; 
a strife to be found in all his writings and in all poetry. 
The brain is only a register and sifter — at the highest an 
alembic ; but its perpetual endeavour is towards an auto- 
cratic tyranny. A thinker is one who has permitted his 
brain to get the upper hand, exactly as the epicure gives 
the reins of power to his palate. In the poet, above all 
in the master-poet Shakespeare, the nerves, the heart, the 
liver, the germs of life that apprehend and think and feel 
— the whole assembly of his being is in perfect harmony 
while the poetical rapture lasts : no organ is master ; a 
diapason extends throughout the entire scale : his whole 
body, his whole soul is rapt into the making of his 
poetry. Imagination, like love, gathers in its ecstasy 



the whole flower of being ; but the mind is constantly 
escaping, interfering, controlling — a necessary provi- 
sion against debauchery and insanity. Hence it is that 
poetry only occurs, and that even in the shortest poem 
there are lines which are not poetry. Hence also rhyme, 
always containing more of intellect than of sensibility, is 
merely a wanton adornment, or a coy veil, of rhythm — 
rhythm, which is poetry in its naked beauty. In his 
sonnets Shakespeare is tethered by the form and fettered 
by rhyme — of the latter he was never a remarkable expo- 
nent ; yet if he had written nothing else than the sonnets 
he would have been at least one of the greatest of Eng- 
lish poets ; and his devout adorers might have imagined 
what variety of rhythm lay hidden in the measured 
cadence of these lines — 

" That time of year thou may’st in me behold 
When yellow leaves or none or few do hang 
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold 

or of these — 

How sweet and lovely dost thou make the shame 
Which like a canker in the fragrant rose 
Doth spot the beauty of thy budding name ; 

although no other imagination than Shakespeare’s could 
have touched so tragic a pathos with the first image as 

" I have lived long enough : my way of life 
Is fallen into the seer, the yellow leaf ; " 


or inshrined the second in such a miracle of utterance as 

" She never told her love ; 

But let concealment like a worm i' the bud 
Feed on her damask cheek/' 

John Davidson. 



^ ** Shakespeare's Sonnets Never before Imprinted" was first published in 
quarto in 1609, with the appendix of A Lover's Com^ifU All the Sonnets save 
eight were reissued in a different order (and mingled mdiscrinunately with the poems 
ot The Passumate P'dgrim) in ** Poems, written by Will. Shakupeare, Gent.” in 1640. 
The omitted sonnets were those numbered here zviii, ziz, zliu, Ivi, Izzr, Izzvi, zcvi, 



BT . 



rOBTB .* 

T. T.* 

* The onlie begetter ... Mr W, H.] “Becker” seems to mean here "pro- 
curer,” ec, of the manuscripts which T[homas]^faorpe], the adventurous publisher 
of the Sonnets, and the signatory of this dedication, was here printing. “Beget” is 
constantly found in Elizabethan English in the sense of “procure” without any im- 
plication of “breed” or “«nerate.” Cf. Lucrece, 1004-1005: “the thing . . . Begets 
turn hate”; Hamlet, 111, ii, 7: “acquire and beget a temperance*^; Dekker's 
Satirormstix (16(^) : “ Some cousins-^rman at court shall beget you (t. e., procure 
for you) the reversion of the master of Sie King’s revels ” (Hawkins’ “ Origm of the 
English Drama,” lii, 156.1 M' W. H., “the begetter,” doubtless a trade friend 
of die publisher, stood to toe volume in much the same relation as J ohn Bodenham, 
a well-known contemporary anthologist, stood to the collection of miscellaneous poetic 
extracts, which the stationer Hugh Astley published under the title of “Belvedere, 
or Garden of the Muses,” in 1600. A preliminary dedicatory sonnet to Bodenham 
addresses him as “first causer and coUectour of these floures,” and in the colophon 
the publisher calls Bodenham the “gentleman who was the cause of this collection.” 
In like sense W. H., the nublisher’s trade friend, was the “causer” and the 
“cause” of Thorpe’s volume. See Oxford facsimile of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, 1609 
(1905* Preface, p. 87). 

* all happinesss . . . wisketh] This is a modification of a very common dedi- 
catory formula of the day in which the words “all happiness” and “eternity” were 
invariably governed by the saine inflection “wisheth^* of the verb “wish.” The 
poets habitually promised eternity to their patrons, and the dedicator here “wish- 
eth” his friend, W. H., “etemitie” no less mdgingly than Shakespeare “our 
everliving poet” offered his own friend (whose identity is not revealed) tne promise 
of eternity in the sonnets which follow 

* The well-wishing . . , forth] The benevolent speculator in this venture. “Ad- 
venturer in setting forth” is tecHnical mercantile language which is often found in 
dedications penn^ Iw Elizabethan publishers. 

* r. r.] Thomas Thorpe, a publisher in a small way of business, who owned the 
copyr^ht m the poems contained in the Sonnets, Quarto of 1609. He is not otherwise 
associated with tne ownership or publication of Shakespeare’s writing. See Lee’s 
Life of Shakespeare, Appendix V, 



creatures we desire increase, 
That thereby beauty’s rose 
might never die. 

But as the riper should by time 

His tender heir might bear his 
(^1 memory; 

But thou, contracted to thine 
I own bright eyes, 

Feed’st thy light’s flame with 
1 self-substantial fuel. 

Making a famine where abund- 
ance lies. 

Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel. 

Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament 

I, 1-4 From fairest creatures , . . his memory] The argument which is 
here initiated and is continued in the first seventeen sonnets that a 
human bemg of exceptional beauty owes it to the world to procreate 
children for the benefit of future ages is a common theme of Renais- 
sance poetry> and is repeatedly found in the addresses of poets to young 

[ 3 ] 


And only herald toi the gaudy spring, lo 

Within thine own bud buriest thy content 
And, tender churl, makest waste in niggarding. 

Pity the world, or else this glutton be, « 

To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee. 


When forty winters shall besiege thy brow 
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field, 

patrons. Erasmus seems to have set the fashion of the argument in 
his colloquy. Prod et Puellae (Of a suitor and a maiden) The plea 
is twice versified elaborately in Sir Philip Sidney *s Arcadia (bk lii), 
firstly, in the talk between Cecropia and Philoclea and, secondly, in the 
addresses of the old dependant Geron to his master Prince Histor. 

In Guarini’s Pastor Fido (1585) the old dependant Linco similarly ad- 
dresses himself to his master, the hero Silvio (Act I). Shakespeare dealt 
with the theme in Venus and Adonis thrice (129-132, 162-174, 751- 
768), as well as in Rom. and J td.y I, i, 213-218. See also Mids N Dr.y 
I, i, 76-78; AU "s Welly I, i, 117 seq ; and Tw. Nighty I, v, 225-227 
6 contracted] betrothed; a common usage. Cf. 1 II m. IV y IV, ii, 16: 

** contracted bachelors.*’ So infra, Ivi, 10. 

6 Feed*st . . self-substantial fuel] Feedest the brilliance of thy eyes with 
fuel of thine own substance, i. c , sight of thyself. 

10 only herald . . . first blossom promising the bright coloured spring. 

1 1 thy content] what is contained in thee, thy individuality. 

12 makest waste in niggarding] Cf. Rom. and Jul, I, i, 215-216; “Ben. 

Then she hath sworn that she will still live chaste ? Hom. She hath, 
and in that sparing makes huge waste.'* 

13-14 this glutton be , and thee] play the part of the glutton (who ab- 
sorbs more than is necessary for his sustenance) by wilfully consum- 
ing the progeny which you owe the world, — in virtue of the two 
facts that the grave will in due time claim thee, and that thy personal 
beauty, which deserves to live, must perish if thou diest childless, 
n, 2 dig deep trenches . . . field] Cf. Tit Andr., V, ii, 23: “Witness 
these trenches made by grief and care.” 

[ 4 ] 


Thy youth’s proud livery, so gaze(& on now. 

Will be a tatter’d weed, of small worth held : 

Then being ask’d where all thy beauty lies. 

Where all the treasure of thy lusty days. 

To say, within thine own deep-sunken eyes. 

Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise. 

How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use. 

If thou couldst answer “This fair child of mine 
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,’’ 
Proving his beauty by succession thine ! 

This were to be new made when thou art old. 
And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold. 


Look in thy glass, and tell the face thou viewest 
Now is the time that face should form another; 

Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest, 

Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother. 

For where is she so fair whose unear’d womb 
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry ? 

4 a tatter'd weed] a ragged garment. The 1600 Quarto reads totter'd for 
tatter'd; so again xxvi, 11 , injra. 

8 thrijtless] profitless, useless. 

11 ShaR sum ,,, old excuse] Shall give full account of me, and ofl'er 
excuse for, or justify, my age. Cf. for the whole context Sidney's 
Arcadia (bk. iii, 1674 ed , p. 403) : “Riches of children pass a prince’s 
throne, Which touch the father’s heart with secret joy. When without 
shame he saith ‘These be mine own.’” 

Ill, 6-6 whose unear'd womb . . . kttsbandry] Cf. Meas. for Meas.y I, iv, 43- 
44: “her plenteous womb Expresseth his full tilth and husbandry." 
“Unear’d” is unploughed or untilled. 

[ 6 ] 


Or who is he so fond will be the tomb 
Of his self-love, to stop posterity ? 

Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee 
Calls back the lovely April of her prime : 

So thou through windows of thine age shalt see. 
Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time. • 

But if thou live, remember’d not to be, 

Die single, and thine image dies with thee. 


Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend 
Upon thyself thy beauty’s legacy ? 

Nature’s bequest gives nothing, but doth lend, 

7-8 who is he so fond to stop posterity] Cf. Sidney’s Arcadia (bk. iii, 
1674 ed., p. 40S) ; Geron to Histor, “Thy commonwealth may rightly 
grieved be Which must by this Immortal be preserved If thus thou 
murther thy posteritie. His very being he hath not deserved Who for a 
self-conceit will that forbear Whereby that being aye must be con- 
served.” For like references elsewhere in Shakespeare see i, 1-4, 
supra, and note. 

9-10 Thou art thy mother*s glass . . . prime] Cf. Lucrece, 1758-1759: 
“Poor broken glass, I often did behold In thy sweet semblance my 
old age new bom.” 

11 through windows of thine age] Ci, Lover's Compl,, 14: “Some beauty 

peep’d through lattice of sear’d age” 

12 thy golden time] Cf. Rich. Ill, I, ii, 246: ** the golded prime of this 

sweet prince.” 

IV, 1-4 Unthrifty loveliness . . . are free] Cf. Guarini’s Pastor Fido 
(Act I, Sc. i) : “a che ti dife natura Ne’ pin begli anni tuoi Fior di belt^ 
si delicato e vago, Se tu sei tanto a calpestarlo intento ? ” Fanahawe 
translates : 

“ Why did frank Nature upon thee bestow 
Blossoms of beauty in thy prime, so sweet 
And fair, for thee to trample under feet? ’* 

[ 6 ] 


And being frank, she lends to those are free. 

Then, beauteous niggard, why dost thou abuse 
The bounteous largess given thee to give ? 

Profitless usurer, why dost thou use 
So great a sum of sums, yet canst not live ? 

Fos having traflBc with thyself alone. 

Thou of thyself thy sweet self dost deceive. 

Then how, when nature calls thee to be gone, 
What acceptable audit canst thou leave ? 

Thy unused beauty must be tomb’d with thee. 
Which, used, lives th’ executor to be. 

Those hours that with gentle work did frame 
The lovely gaze where every eye doth dwell 
Will play the tyrants to the very same 
And that unfair which fairly doth excel: 

For never-resting time leads summer on 
To hideous winter and confounds him there ; 

Sap check’d with frost and lusty leaves quite gone 
Beauty o’ersnow’d and bareness every where’ 

Then, were not summer’s distillation left, 

i And being frank . . . are free] And being generous, she lends to those who 
are liberal. Cf . Meas. for Meas,,l* i» 37-41 : “ Nature never lendst* etc. 
V, 2 gaze] subject or object of observation. Cf. Macb.^ V, viii, 24 : “to 
be the show and gaze o’ the time.” 

4 unfair] unbeautify, make ugly. Cf. cxxvii, 6. ''"Fairing the foul.” 

0 summer* s distillation] the extracted essence of the summer flowers. So 
line 1 3, fn/ra; vi, infra; and Mids.N .Dr.AyuHQ: “earthlier happy 
is the rose distUTd,'* See also liv, 13-14, infra. The identical illus- 
tration from the rose figures in Erasmus* colloquy, “Proci et Puellae.** 

[ 7 ] 


A liquid prisoner pOnt in walls of glass, lO 

Beauty’s effect with beauty were bereft. 

Nor it, nor no remembrance what it was : 

But flowers distill’d, though they with winter meet, < 
Leese but their show ; their substance still lives sweet. 


Then let not winter’s ragged hand deface 
In thee thy summer, ere thou be distill’d : 

Make sweet some vial : treasure thou some place 
With beauty’s treasure, ere it be self-kill’d. 

That use is not forbidden usury. 

Which happies those that pay the willing loan; 

That ’s for thyself to breed another thee, 

Or ten times happier, be it ten for one; 

Ten times thyself were happier than thou art. 

If ten of thine ten times re%ured thee : lo 

Then what could death do, if thou shouldst depart. 
Leaving thee living in posterity ? 

Be not self-will’d, for thou art much too fair 
To be death’s conquest and make worms thine heir. 

10 A liquid 'prisoner , . . glass] Cf. Sidney’s Arcadia (bk. iii, 1674 ed ♦ 
p. 246) : ‘‘Have you ever seen a pure rosewater kept in a crystal glass f 
How fine it looks, how sweet it smells, while that beautiful glass impris- 
ons it. Break the prison, and let the water take his own course Doth 
it not embrace dust, and lose of its former sweetness and fairness ? ” 

14 Lesse] Lose; an archaic word, occasionally found in Elizabethan Eng- 
lish. See Poems “by Thomas Watson (ed. Arber, pp. 44, 51). 

VI, 1 ragged] rugged. Cf. Rich. II, V, v, 21: ** ragged prison walls.” 

5 That use\ That lending or investment of money at interest. So Vemis 
and Adonis, 768: “gold that s put to use more gold begets,” and 
Merck, of Ven., I, iii, 40: **The rate of usance.** 

[ 8 ] 


VII ' 

Lo, in the orient when the gracious light 
Lifts up his burning head, each under eye 
Doth homage to his new-appearing sight. 
Serving with looks his sacred majesty; 

And having climb’d the steep-up heavenly hill, 
Resembling strong youth in his middle age. 

Yet mortal looks adore his beauty still, 
Attending on his golden pilgrimage; 

But when from highmost pitch, with weary car. 
Like feeble age, he reeleth from the day. 

The eyes, ’fore duteous, now converted are 
From his low tract, and look another way : 

So thou, .thyself out-going in thy noon. 
Unlook’d on diest, unless thou get a son. 


Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly ? 
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy. 

VII, 1-4 Lo, in ike orient . . majesty] A graphic description of sun- 

worship repeated in many early plays. Cf. L. L, L., IV, iii, 220, and 
note there. 

6 steep-up] very steep. Cf. Pass. PUg., ix, 5: “Her stand she takes upon 
a steep-up hill.” 

10 reeleth from the day] Cf. Rom. and Jvl.^ IV, iii, S-4 : “darkness like a 
drunkard reels From forth day^s path.^* 

11-12 converted are From his low tract] turn from his declining course. 
Cf. Rich. //, in, iii, 66-67 (of the sunset): “the track Of his bright 

vni A MS. copy in a seventeenth-century commonplace book in the 

£ 9 ] 


'WTiy lovest thou th|L,t which thou receivest not gladly, 
Or else receivest with pleasure thine annoy ? 

If the true concord of well tuned sounds, 

By unions married, do offend thine ear. 

They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds 
In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear. ,, 
Mark how one string, sweet husband to another, 
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering; 

Resembling sire and child and happy mother, 

Who, all in one, one pleasing note do sing : 

Whose speechless song, being many, seeming one. 
Sings this to thee; “Thou single wilt prove none.” 


Is it for fear to wet a widow’s eye 
That thou consumest thyself in single life ? 

Ah ! if thou issueless shalt hap to die. 

The world will wail thee, like a makeless wife; 

The world will be thy widow, and still weep 
That thou no form of thee hast left behind, 

British Museum (MS. Add. 15226, f. 4 b) bears the heading: “In 
laudem mu sice et opprobrium contemptorij (sic) eiusdem.” 

1 Music to hear^ Thou who art music to hear, thou whose voice is music. 

Cf. cxxviii, 1, injra: “Thou my music.” 

14 Sings this . . . fTove none\ The 1609 Quarto has no slops here save 
at the end of the line. The Brit. Mus. MS. punctuates it thus : Sings 
this to thee. Thou single, shall 'prove none, Malone first gave the 
accepted punctuation. There is allusion here to the common pro- 
verbial jest, “One is no number.” Cf. cxxxvi, 8, injra, and Rom, 
and Jul., I, ii, 32-33, and note. 

IX, 4 makeless] companionless; “make” is a common archaic word for 


[ 10 ] 


When every private widow well may keep 
By children’s eyes her husband’s shape in mind. 
Look, what an unthrift in the world doth spend 
Shifts but his place, for still the world enjoys it; 

But beauty’s waste hath in the world an end. 

And ^ept unused, the user so destroys it. 

No love toward others in that bosom sits 
That on himself such murderous shame commits. 

For sh_*ne! deny that thou bear’st love to any, 

Who yself ar so unprovident. 

Gran*^ if ^.^ou wilt, thou art beloved of many. 

But that none l''vest is most evident; 

For thou ar so pos is’d with murderous hate 
That ’g£''".st thyself thou stick’st not to conspire, 
Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate 
Which to repair should be thy chief desire. 

O, change thy thought, that I may change my mind ! 

9-10 what an unthrift his place] that which a spendthrift squanders 
merely changes its place or aership. 

IS No love . . . sits] Chapman similarly addresses his patron the Duke 
of Lennox in his tra slation of Homer’s Iliad (1508) : 

“ None ever lived by self-love ; others* good 
Is tb* object of our own They hving die 

That bury in themselvea their fortunes’ brood.’* 

X, 7 that beauteous roof to ruinate] to destroy that splendid household or 
family of thine. Cf. Lucrece, 944: “To ruinate proud buildings with 
thine hours.” So S Hen. VI, V, i, 83: “I will not ruinate my 
fatlier’s house,** and Tv)o Gent., V, iv, 8-10. For different applica- 
tion of the image of a ruined building, see cxix, 11. 

9 my mini] my opinion of thy character. 

[ 11 ] 


Shall hate be fair^ lodged than gentle love ? lo 

Be, as thy presence is, gracious and kind. 

Or to thyseli at least kind-hearted prove : 

Make thee another self, for love of me, » 

That beauty still may live in thine or thee. 


As fast as thou shalt wane, so fast thou grow’st 
In one of thine, from that which thou departest; 

And that fresh blood which youngly thou bestow’st 
Thou mayst call thine when thou from youth convertest. 
Herein lives wisdom, beauty and increase; 

Without this, folly, age and cold decay: 

If all were minded so, the times should cease 
And threescore year would make the world away. 

Let those whom Nature hath not made for store. 

Harsh, featureless and rude, barrenly perish: lo 

Look, whom she best endow’d she gave the more; 
Which bounteous gift thou shouldst in bounty cherish : 

She carved thee for her seal, and meant thereby 
Thou shouldst print more, not let that copy 

XI, 9 for store] for purpose of reproduction or replenishment. Cf . Spenser’s 
Faerie Queens, III, vi, 36 (of nature’s reproductive processes): “the 
stocke [sc. of Dame Nature] . . . still remains in everlasting store 
[t. e., in state of perpetual replenishment] ’’ and xiv, 12, infra. 

11 she gave the more] Thus the Quarto. Malone read she gave thee more, 
which simplifies the passage and is a justifiable change. 

14 that copy] the carving on the original seal, whence impressions can 
be taken. Cf. Tw. Night, I, v, 227: “And leave the world no 




When I do count the clock that tells the time, 

• And see the brave day sunk in hideous night; 

When I behold the violet past prime, 

And sable curls all silver’d o’er with white; 

When lofty trees I see barren of leaves. 

Which erst from heat did canopy the herd. 

And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves, 

Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard. 

Then of thy beauty do I question make. 

That thou among the wastes of time must go. 

Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake 
And die as fast as they see others grow; 

And nothing ’gainst Time’s scythe can make 

Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence. 


O, that you were yourself ! but, love, you are 
No longer yours than you yourself here live: 

XII, S the violet past prime] Cf. Hamlet, I, iii, 7: A violet in the youth 
of primy nature/’ 

4 And sable curls . . . white] Cf. Hamlet^ I, ii, 239-241: “his beard 
A sable silver'd ” 

7-8 summer's green . . . beard] Cf. Mids. N, Dr„ II, i, 94-95: “the 
green com Hath rotted ere his youth attain’d a beards" 

14 Save breed] Except children. 

XIII, 1 yourself] independent of conditions of time. The use for the first 
time of “your,” “you,” etc., instead of the customary “thy,” “thou,” 
etc., is noticeable. The plural usage is only found repeated m 
thirty-four the one hundred and fifty-four sonnets. 



Against this comjng end you should prepare, 

And your sweet semblance to some other give. 

So should that beauty which you hold in lease 
Find no determination ; then you were ' < 

Yourself again, after y ourself ’s decease. 

When your sweet issue your sweet form should hear. 
Who lets so fair a house fall to decay. 

Which husbandry in honour might uphold 
Against tlje stormy gusts of winter’s day 
And barren rage of death’s eternal cold ? 

O, none but unthrifts : dear my love, you know 
You had a father; let your son say so. 


Not from the stars do I my judgement pluck ; 

And yet methinks I have astronomy. 

But not to tell of good or evil luck. 

Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality ; 

Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell. 

Pointing to each his thunder, rain and wind, 

Or say with princes if it shall go well. 

By oft predict that I in heaven find : 

9-18 Who Ids .. . demal cold] Cf. Sidney’s Arcadia (bk. iii, 1674 ed., 
p. 403) : “Thy house by thee must live or else be gone. And then who 
shall the name of Histor nourish t" 

10 husbandry] economy, prudence. 

XIV, 2 adnmomy] astrology. So Sidney’s Arcadia (bk. iii, 1674 ed., p. 
244): “thy heavenly face is my astronomy.” Cf. Astrophel, xxvi, 1: 
“dusty wits dare scorn astrology.” 

6 Pointing] Appointing; so Lucrece, 879: “ point’ st the season.” 

8 By oft predid] By constant prediction or prophecy. 

[ 14 ] 


But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive. 

And, constant stars, in them I read such art. 

As truth and beauty shall together thrive. 

If from thyself to store thou wouldst convert; 

Or else of thee this I prognosticate: 

Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date. 


When I consider every thing that grows 
Holds in perfection but a little moment, 

■ That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows 
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment; 

When I perceive that men as plants increase. 

Cheered and check’d even by the self-same sky. 

Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease. 

And wear their brave state out of memory; 

Then the conceit of this inconstant stay 

9 from thine eyes ... I derive] Ct. L. L. L., IV, iii, 346 : ’’From vromen’i 

eyes this doctrine I derive” 

10 constant stars . , , art] Cf. Daniel’s Delia, xxxiv, 5 (of Delia’s eyes) : 

** Stars sure they are, whose motions rule desires,” etc. “Art” 
means astrological knowledge; 

12 If from thyself . . . convert] If thou wouldst “convert thyself” [i.e., turn] 
from conservation of thyself to replenishment of the future. See xi, 
9, supra, and note. 

14 Thy end . . . beauty's doom and date] Cf. Venus and Adonis, 1019: 

“For he being dead, with him is beauty slain.” 
rv, 8 this huge stage . . . shows] an embryonic hint of Shakespeare’s 
familiar comparison of the stage and the world in As you like it, II, 
vii, 1S9 seq, Cf. Spenser’s Amoretn, liv: “Of thb world’s theatre 
in which we stay.” 

9 the conceit . . . stay] the notion or idea of this mutability of naturOi 

[ 16 ] 


Sets you most ri^ in youth before my sight, lo 

Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay, 

To change your day of youth to sullied night; 

And all in war with Time for love of you, 

As he takes from you, I engraft you new. 



But wherefore do not you a mightier way 
Make war upon this bloody tyrant. Time? 

And fortify yourself in your decay 

With means more blessed than my barren rhyme? 

Now stand you on the top of happy hours, 

And many maiden gardens, yet unset. 

With virtuous wish would bear your living flowers 
Much liker than your painted counterfeit: 

So should the lines of life that life repair, 

Cf. Ovid's Metam.y xv (Golding’s transl., first published in 1567) : “In 
all the world there is not that that standeth at a day ” (1612 ed., 
p. 185 b), and “Our bodies also cry To alter still from time to time 
and never stand at stay'* Shakespeare gives numerous signs in this 
and other sonnets of familiarity with Golding’s rendering of the 
philosophic disquisition on the mutability of nature which fills a 
large space in Ovid, Metam., bk. xv; see xxxix, xlv, Iv, lix, lx, Ixiii, 
bdv, cxxiii. 

12 To change . . . suUied night] Cf* Rich, Illy IV, iv, 16: “Hath 
dimm’d your infant rnom to aged night," 

XVI, S joriify yourself] See Ixiii, 9, and note. 

6 unset] imsown, unplanted. Cf. PerideSy IV, vi, 84 : “your herl>- woman, 
she that sets seeds.” So Lover's Comply 171 (of the seducer); “his 
plants in others’ orchards grew.” 

8 counterfeit] picture. 

9 the lines of life] the delineation of life in children. 

[ 16 ] 


Which this, Time’s pencil, or my ptjpil pen, lo 

Neither in inward worth nor outward fair. 

Can make you live yourself in eyes of men. 

To give away yourself keeps yourself still; 

And you must live, drawn by your own sweet 
« skill. 


Who will believe my verse in time to come. 

If it were fill’d with your most high deserts ? 

Though yet, heaven knows, it is but as a tomb 
Which hides your life and shows not half your 

If I could write the beauty of your eyes 
And in fresh numbers number all your graces. 

The age to come would say “This poet lies; 

Such heavenly touches ne’er touch’d earthly faces.” 

So should my papers, yellowed with their age. 

Be scorn’d, like old men of less truth than tongue, lo 

10 this. Time's pencil] this painting, the work of the artist’s pencil which 

is subject to Time’s ruin. 

10-12 my pupil pen ... in eyes of men] This avowal of inability, on 
the part of the poet’s youthful pen to conserve his friends’ fame is 
bluntly contradicted in xviii, 13-14, infra, and many times elsewhere. 

11 fair] beauty. So xviii, 7, 10, infra. 

13 To give away . . , still] To produce likenesses of yourself will keep 
your memory alive. 

xvn, 5-6 If I could . . . your graces] Cf L L. L , IV, iii, 318-310 • 
“Such fiery numbers as the prompting eye Of beauty's tutors have 
enrich’d you with.” 

9 So should my papers, etc.] See xvi, 10, and note. 

S [ 17 ] 


And your true rights be term'd a poet’s rage 
And stretched metre of an antique song; 

But were some child of yours alive that time, 

You should live twice, in it and in my rhyme. 


Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day ? 

Thou art more lovely and more temperate: 

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, 

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date: 
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines. 

And often is his gold complexion dimm’d; 

And every fair from fair sometime declines. 

By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d; 

But thy eternal summer shall not fade, 

Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest; 

Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade. 
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st: 

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, 

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. 

11 a poet’s rage] Cf. c, 8: “Spend’st thou thy fury on some worthless 


12 And stretched . . . 80 ng\ The motto of Keats' Endymion, 

XVIII This sonnet was omitted from Shakespeare’s “Poems” of 1'640. 

3 Rough winds . . . buds oj May^ So T. o/ Shrew ^ V, ii, 140: “as whirl- 
winds shake fair buds,” and Cymb.t I, iii, S6-37: “the tyrannous 
breathing of the north Shakes all our buds from growing.” 

5 the eye of heaven] the sun. Cf. Lucrece, 1088, and note. 

7-10 fair . . . fair . . . fair] beauty. Cf. xvi, 11, supra, and Ixviii, 3, 

8 untrimm'd] divested of ornament. 

12 in eternal lines] The poet’s boast of the immortality of his verse and of 

[ 18 ] 



Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion’s paws. 

And make the earth devour her own sweet brood ; 

Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger’s jaws. 

And J}urn the long-lived phoenix in her blood ; 

Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fieet’st. 

And do whate’er thou wilt, swift-footed Time, 

To the wide world and all her fading sweets; 

But I forbid thee one most heinous crime : 

O, carve not with thy hours my love’s fair brow. 

Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen; lo 
Him in thy course untainted do allow 
For beauty’s pattern to succeeding men. 

Yet do t% worst, old Time : despite thy wrong. 

My love shall in my verse ever live young. 

its power of ‘‘eternizing'* him or her whom it commemorates con- 
stantly recurs m/m. It was a sentiment common to all the great poets 
of the European Renaissance, and echoed a similar claim preferred 
by the classical poets from Pindar to Horace and Ovid. Cf. Spenser's 
Amoretti (1595), Sonnet Ixxv: “My verse your virtues rare shall eter- 
nize, And in the heavens write your glorious name.” Drayton and 
Daniel reiterated the conceit with all the boldness of Shakespeare and 
Spenser, and in very similar phraseology. 

XIX This sonnet was omitted from Shakespeare’s “Poems” of 1640. 

1 Devouring Tiine^ Another echo of Ovid’s philosophic argument (see xv, 
9, supra), Cf. Ovid’s Metam., xv, 234 : “Tempus edax rerum,” etc , 
which Golding translates: “Thou Time, the eater up of things and 
age of spitefull teen. Destroy all things” (ed. 1612, p. 186 a), Ovid 
illustrates Time’s action some lines below by the story of the 
phoenix, to which also allusion is made in this sonnet, line 4. 

4 in her blood] alive. 

[ 19 ] 


• • XX 

A woman’s face with Nature’s own hand painted 
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion; 

A woman’s gentle heart, but not acquainted 
With shifting change, as is false women’s fashion,; 

An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling. 
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth ; 

A man in hue, all hues in his controlling. 

Which steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth. 
And for a woman wert thou first created ; 

Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting, lo 

XX, 5 An eye more bright , . . rolling] Cf. Spenser^s Faerie Queene^ HI, 
i, 41 : “Her wanton eyes (ill signs of womanhead) Did roll too lightly.” 

7 A man in hue^ all hues in his controlling] A man in aspect, who exerts 
control or influence over the complexions or countenances of all 
manner of persons. The Quarto has the common Elizabethan 
spelling “hew” and “Hews,” the latter word being italicised. (No 
particular significance seems attachable to the capital H or to the 
italics, which the Cambridge editors indicate superfluously by inverted 
commas ) “Hue” has here the general sense of “shape” or “external 
aspect”; “hues” the more specialised sense of “complexions” or 
“countenances” (cf. civ, 11: “your sweet hue*'). When Pyrocles in 
Sidney*s Arcadia (1674 ed., p. 43) disguises himself as a woman, he 
writes a sonnet to his lady-love, ending thus (with a slight pun) : 
“What marvel then I take a woman's hue (i a., aspect or shape) 
Since that I see, think, know is all but you." For “hues in his con^ 
trolling, which steals men’s eyes,” etc., cf . Pericles, IV, i, 42-43 • “That 
excellent complexion which did steal The eyes of young and old”; 
Hen. Vlll, II. iv, 26-27 (Queen Katharine to Henry VIII): “Yea, 
subject to your countenance, glad or sorry As I saw it inclined,” and 
infra, cidbi, 12: “commanded (i.e., controlled or influenced) by the 
motion of thine eyes." 

[ 20 ] 


And by addition me of thee defeated, . 

By adding one thing to my purpose nothing. 

But since she prick’d thee out for women’s pleasure, 
Mine be thy love, and thy love’s use their treasure. 


So it is not with me as with that Muse 
Stirr’d by a painted beauty to his verse. 

Who heaven itself for ornament doth use 
And every fair with his fair doth rehearse. 

Making a couplement of proud compare. 

With sun and moon, with earth and sea’s rich gems. 
With April’s first-born flowers, and all things rare 
That heaven’s air in this huge rondure hems. 

11 defecUed] disappointed. Cf, Mids. N. Dr.y IV, i, 154: “Thereby to 
have defeated you and me.” 

xxi, 1-8 So it is not . rondure hems] The poet deprecates the ex- 
travagant conceits of contemporary poets or sonneteers of love; see 
Ixxvi, 5-6, and cxxx, for more or less satiric comment of like kind. 

4 And every fair . . . rehearse] And he doth mention every kind of beauty 
in association with his fair mistress. Shakespeare uses the word 
“rehearse” (always in the present sense) four times in the Sonnets 
(xxxviii, 4; Ixxi, 11; Ixxxi, 11) and thirteen times in early plays. It 
is only found once in later works (Wint Tale, V, ii, 60). 

5-6 Making . . . c<mpare With sun] Coupling (“his fair”) in the way 
of high-flown simUe with sun. Spenser uses the rare word “couple- 
ment” in Faerie Queene, Bk. IV, canto iii, st. 52, 1 S. 

6 earth and sea's rich gems] The extravagant figurative use of precious 
stones in love sonnets of the time is mentioned in Lover's CompL, 
lines 209-210: “And deep-brain ’d sonnets that did amplify Each 
stone's dear nature, worth, and quality” (see note). 

8 rondure] circle; from the French “rondeur” which Cotgrave trans- 
lates “roundness,” “globinesse.” Cf K, John, II, i, 259: “The 



O, let me, true in love, but truly write. 

And then believe me, my love is as fair lo 

As any mother’s child, though not so bright 
As those gold candles fix’d in heaven’s air: « 

Let &em say more that like of hearsay well ; 

I will not praise that purpose not to sell. 


My glass shall not persuade me I am old. 

So long as youth and thou are of one date ; 

But when in thee time’s furrows I behold, 

roundure of your old-faced walls,” and Dekker, Old Fortxinaius, 1600 
(1873 ed., vol. i, p. 90): ‘'the sacred roundure of mine eyes.” 

12 candles] Cf. Merck, of Ven., V, i, 220: candles of the night. ” So 
Fairfax’s translation of Tasso’s Gierusalemme Liberata, Canto ix, st. 

10: “heaven’s small indies'* 

14 I will not to sell] Cf. L. L. L., IV, iii, 236: “To things of sale a 
seller’s praise belongs,” and cii, 3-4, infra. 

XXII, 1 My glass shall not persuade me 1 am old] The poet’s reflection 
that he is old is repeated Ixii, 9-10 (“But when my glass shows me 
myself indeed ”), Ixxiii, 1-2, and cxxxviii, 6, infra. Such a reflection is 
conventional among sonneteers of the day. Daniel in Delia (1591), 
xxiii, at twenty-nine wrote : “My years draw on in everlasting night.” 
Richard Bamfield at twenty in his sonnets to Ganymede (1594) 
wrote: “Behold my grey head full of silver hairs. My wrinkled skin 
deep furrowed in my face.” Drayton in 1594 in Idea, xiv: “Look- 
ing into the glass of my youth’s miseries, I see the ugly face of my 
deformed cares With wrinkled brow all withered with despairs.” 
Petrarch seems to be the originator of this sonneteering convention. 

Cf. his “In morte di Laura,” Sonnet Ixxxii: 

** Dicemi spesso il mio fidato speglio, 

L’animo stance e la cangiata scorza 
£ la scemata mia destrezza e forza 
Non ti nasconder piii: tu se’ pur veglio.” 



Then look I death my days should expiate. 

For all that beauty that doth cover thee 
Is but the seemly raiment of my heart. 

Which in thy breast doth live, as thine in me: 

How can I Aen be elder than thou art? 

O, therefore, love,'be of thyself so wary 
As I, not for myself, but for thee will ; 

Bearing thy heart, which I will keep so chary 
As tender nurse her babe from faring ill. 

Presume not on thy heart when mine is slain ; 
Thou gavest me thine, not to give back again. 


As an unperfect actor on the stage. 

Who with his fear is put besides his part, 

Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage. 
Whose strength’s abundance weakens his own heart; 
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say 
The perfect ceremony of love’s rite. 

And in mine own love’s strength seem to decay, 
O’ercharged with burthen of mine own love’s might. 

(“My faithful glass, my weaiy spirit and my wrinkled skin, and my 
decaying wit and strength repeatedly tell me: ‘It cannot longer be 
hidden from you, you are old.’”) 

4 ex'piate] end; a rare usage. Thus the Quarto. Steevens sub- 

stituted expirate, Cf. Rich. Ill, III, iii, 23. “the hour of death is 
expiate*' where the Second Folio substitutes now expired 
10 but for thee will] but for thy sake will be wary or careful of myself, 
xxin, 1-2 As an underfed aotor ,,, his fart] Cf. Cor., V, iii, 40-41: 
“Like a dull actor now I have forgot my fart." 

5 for fear of trust] afraid to trust myself, for lack of confidence. 

[ 28 ] 


O, let my books be,then the eloquence 

And dumb presagers of my speaking breast; lo 

Who plead for love, and look for recompense. 

More than that tongue that more hath more express’d. i 
O, leam to read wbat silent love hath writ: 

To hear with eyes belongs to love’s fine wit. . 


Mine eye hath play’d the painter and hath stall’d 
Thy beauty’s form in table of my heart; 

My body is the frame wherein ’t is held, 

9 books] manuscripts. Thus the Quarto. Sewell ingeniously substituted 

looks, but books alone agrees with line 13 : “ O, learn to read,** 

10 dumb presagers] players of dumb shows with which plays were often 

introduced on the stage. 

12 that tongue . . . express* d] that ‘‘unperfect*’ tongue which would, 
had it been endowed with greater strength, have ejrpressed more 

xxrv, 1 MVd] CapelVs emendation of the original reading sleeld, 
“Stelled** means “depicted” or “painted,” as in Lucrece, 1444. 

“ Steeled ” would mean “engraved.” 

2 table of my heart] Cf K.John,ll,\,bQSi “ the flattering of her eye,” 
and All*s Well, I, i, 89: “owr hearts table.** The conomon notion 
of a lover painting or engraving the form of his beloved one on the 
“table” or canvas of his heart is of especially frequent occurence in 
the sonnets of the period in England, France, and Italy. Cf. 
Ronsard. Sonnets pour AstrSe, vi, 1-4 

‘ II ne falloit, maistresse, autres taUetUs, 

Pour vous graver que c^a de man caur 
Oil de sa main Amour, nostre vainqueur, 

Vous a grav^ et vos graces parfaites ” 

So Tasso, Rime, bk. ii, Sonnet xxvi: “sc rimagine vostra,” etc., 
and Watson’s Tears of Fancie (1593), xlv, xlvi. 

[« 4 ] 


And perspective it is best painter’s §irt. 

For through the painter must you see his skill. 

To find where your true image pictured lies; 

Which in my bosom’s shop is hanging still, 

That hath his windows glazed with thine eyes. 

Now*. see what good turns eyes for eyes have done: 
Mine eyes have drawn thy shape, and thine for me 
Are windows to my breast, where-through the sun 
Delights to peep, to gaze therein on thee; 

Yet eyes this cunning want to grace their art, 
They draw but what they see, know not the heart. 


Let those who are in favour with their stars 
Of public honour and proud titles boast, 

Whilst I, whom fortune of such triumph bars, 
Unlook’d for joy in that I honour most. 

4 'perspedive] in point of perspective, which is the art of producing 
the illusion of distance. The word is accented on the first syllable. 
There may be some vague allusion to the perspective glasses, which 
were cut to produce various optical effects. Cf. Rich, II, II, ii, 18 
“like perspectives,'' and note. 

8 his windows glazed . . eyes\ an hyperbolical description of the com- 
pleteness with which the friend's eyes dominate the poet’s heart. The 
figure is repeated, lines 11-12, infra. The imagery is a sonneteering 
convention. Cf. Constable’s Diana, Decade i. Sonnet v: “ Thine eye 
the glass where I behold my heart Mine eye the window through the 
which thine eye May see my heart.” 

T1 icindows to my breast] Cf. L. L, L„ V, ii, 826 : “the window of my heart, 
mine eye.” Cf. for the common poetic use of “windows” for “eyes,” 
Venus and Adonis, 482: “her two blue vnndowa" (i. e., eyes); and 
see line 8, supra. 

XXV, 4 Unlook'd for] Being overlooked, n^Iected. 



Great princes’ fayqurites their fair leaves spread 
But as the marigold at the sun’s eye, 

And in themselves their pride lies buried. 

For at a frown they in their glory die. 

The painful warrior famoused for fight. 

After a thousand victories once foil’d, / 

Is from the book of honour razed quite. 

And all the rest forgot for which he toil’d: 

Then happy I, that love and am beloved 
Where I may not remove nor be removed. 


Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage 
Thy merit hath my duty strongly knit, 

5-6 their fair leaves • . . sun's eye] Cf. Rom, and Jvl,^ I, i, 150-151, 
where it is said of a bud that it “can spread his sweet leaves to the air 
Or dedicate his beauty to the sun.” Such references to the opening 
and closing of the petals of the garden marigold are frequent in 
Elizabethan poetry. Cf. Constable’s Diana^ Decade ix, Sonnet i; 
Lucrece, 397-399 ; Cymb,, II, iii, ^-24. 

9-12 The painf id warrior . . . which he toil'd] Fight is Theobald's change 
of the Quarto worthy which does not rhyme. The general senti- 
ment is repeated in Troil. and Cress , III, iii, 169-170: “Oh, let not 
virtue seek Remuneration for the thing it was.” 

13-14 Then happy 1 be removed] Cf. cxvi, 3: “bends with the re- 
mover to remove." Constable uses “remove ” intransitively in the same 
connection: “But sith resolved love cannot remove" (Diana, Dec- 
ade i, Sonnet iv). 

XXVI The language here clothes in poetic splendour the prose dedication 
to Lord Southampton which Shakespeare dutifully prefixed to his 
poem of Lucrece (1594). The dedication begins : " The love I dedicate 
to your lordship is without end . , . were my worth greater, my duty 
would show greater.” Cf. cx, 9, infra. 

[ 86 ] 


To thee I send this written ambasst^ge, 

To witness duty, not to show my wit : 

Duty so great, which wit so poor as mine 
•• May make seem bare, in wanting words to show it. 
But that I hope some good conceit of thine 
In thy soul’s thought, all naked, will bestow it; 

Till whatsoever star that guides my moving, 

Points on me graciously with fair aspect. 

And puts apparel on my tatter’d loving, 

To show me worthy of thy sweet respect : 

Then may I dare to boast how I do love thee; 
Till then not show my head where thou mayst 
prove me. 


Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed. 

The dear repose for limbs with travel tired; 

But then begins a journey in my head. 

To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired: 

For then my thoughts, from far where I abide, 

7-8 some good conceit . . . bestow it] some generous sentiment on thy 
part will give lodging in thy soul’s thought to this dutiful greeting 
of mine despite the bareness of my language. Cf. for “all naked,” 
ciii, 3; “ The argument, all bare” 

9-10 star . . . momng . . . aspect] these words have all their customary 
astrological significance. 

11 tatter'd] Cf ii, 4, supra^ and note. 

XXVII, 3 then begins a journey in my head] Cf. GrifiSn’s Fidessa (1596), 
Sonnets xiv and xv: “When silent sleep had closed up mine eyes 
My watchful mind did then begin to muse.” The theme of travel, 
signified by this and the next sonnet, is developed infra in Sonnets 
1 and Ii. 


[ 27 ] 


Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee, 

And keep my drooping eyelids open wide, 

Looking on darkness which the blind do see: 

Save that my soul’s imaginary sight 
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view. 

Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night. 

Makes black night beauteous and her old face new. 
Lo, thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind. 
For thee and for myself no quiet find. 


How can I then return in happy plight. 

That am debarr’d the benefit of rest ? 

When day’s oppression is not eased by night. 

But day by night, and night by day, oppress’d ? 

6 Intend] Design, purpose, 

10 thy shadow] Cf. xliii, 11 : “thy fair imperfect shade,” and Ixi, 1 : “Is it 
thy will, thy image,” etc., and Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella, xxxviii: 
“This night, which sleep begins,” etc Sleepless nights illumined by 
apparitions of his mistress I,<aura form the topic of some of the most 
characteristic sonnets and canzoni of Petrarch. Cf. “In vita di 
Laura,” Sestina I, and Sonnet xxvi, and “In morte di Laura,” Son- 
nets xiv-xviii Imitations abound in Italian and French sonnets of 
the sixteenth century. 

11-12 Which, like a jewel . , . night beauteous] Cf. Rom, and Jtd., I, v, 
43-44: “she hangs upon the cheek of night Like a rich jewel in an 
Ethiop’s ear.” 

14 For thee and for myself] On account of thinking about thee by night 
and working for myself by day. 

xxvni, 3-8 When day's oppression , . , from thee] Cf. Sidney’s Astrophel 
and Stella, Sonnet Ixxxix: “Tired with the dusty toils of busy day, 
Languish! with horrors of the silent night, Suffering the evils both of 
the day and night.” 


And each, though enemies to either’^ reign, 

Do in consent shake hands to torture me; 

The one by toil, the other to complain 
How far I toil, still farther off from thee. 

I tell the day, to please him thou art bright. 

And dost him grace when clouds do blot the heaven ; lo 
So flatter I the swart-complexion’d night; 

When sparkling stars twire not thou gild’st the even. 

But day doth daily draw my sorrows longer. 

And night doth nightly make grief’s strength seem 


When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, 

I all alone beweep my outcast state, 

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries. 

And look upon myself, and curse my fate. 

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, 

Featured like him, like him with friends possess’d. 
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope. 

With what I most enjoy contented least; 

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising. 

Haply I think on thee, and then my state, lo 

12 tvdre] twinkle or peep, 

14 strength] Capell’s substitution for the Quarto length. 

XXIX, 1-9 When, in disgrace . . (tlmost desjnsing] This pessimistic tone 
which is repeated in Sonnet Ixvi, infra, recalls Tasso’s sequence of 
melancholy sonnets called “Amicitia tradita.” (See Rime, Venice, 
1620, voL iii, pt. ix, p. 79 seq ) One of these (“Vinca fortuna homai “) 
was translated by Drummond of Hawthomden (Sonnet xxxiii) . “If 
fortune triumph now,” etc 

[ 29 ] 


Like to the lark break of day arising 
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate; 

For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings 
That then I scorn to change my state with kings. 


When to the sessions of sweet silent thought 
I summon up remembrance of things past, 

I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought. 

And with old woes new wa,il my dear time’s waste : 
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow, 

For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night. 

And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe. 

And moan the expense of many a vanish’d sight: 

11-12 Like to the lark . . . heaven’s groie] Cf. ’Lyh/’a'Campaspe, V, i, 37- 
39: *^The lark ... so shrill and clear At heaven* s gate she 
claps her wings. The mom not waking till she sings.** So Rom. and 
JuL., in, V, 21: “the lark, whose notes do beat The vanity heaven^'* 
and Cymh.y II, iii, 19-20: “Hark, hark! the lark at heavens gate 

12 sidlm earth] Cf. ^ Hen. VI, I, ii, 6: “thine eyes fix’d to the svUen 

XXX, 1 sessions of .. . thought] Cf. Othello, III, iii, 142-143 : “ appre- 
hensions ... in session sit.” 

5 I drown an eye] Cf Lucrece, 1239: “they drown their eyes.** 

an eye, unused to flow] Cf. Othello, V, ii, 351-352: **eyes, Albeit 
unused to the melting mood.” 

6 death's dateless night] Cf. Rom. and Jvl., V, iii, 115 : “A dateless bargain 

to engrossing death.** “Dateless” is repeated, cliii, 6, infra. 

8 the expense of many a vanish'd sight] the spending or wasting of many 
an object vanished from or lost to view. 

[ 80 ] 


Then can I grieve at grievances foregone, 

And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er 
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan. 

Which I new pay as if not paid before. 

But if the while I think on thee, dear friend. 
All losses are restored and sorrows end. 


Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts, 

WTiich I by lacking have supposed dead; 

And there reigns love, and all love’s loving parts. 
And all those friends which I thought buried. 
How many a holy and obsequious tear 
Hath dear religious love stol’n from mine eye. 

As interest of the dead, which now appear 
But things removed that hidden in thee lie ! 
Thou art the grave where buried love doth live. 
Hung with the trophies of my lovers gone. 

Who all their parts of me to thee did give; 

That due of many now is thine alone : 

Their images I loved I view in thee. 

And thou, all they, hast all the all of me. 

XXXI, 6 obeequioiis] funereal. Cf. Handel, I, ii, 92: “ dbsequioua sorrow 
but see cxxv, 9, infra; '‘obsequious in thy heart ” 

6 dear religioue love] love making a religion of its affection. Cf Lover s 

Comfl., 250: “Religious love put out Religion’s eye.” 

7 interest of the dead] Cf. Luorece, 1797: “My sorrow’s inUred” (*. e.. 

due or right). 



If thou survive my well-contented day, 

When that churl Death my bones with dust shall cover. 
And shalt by fortune once more re-survey 
These poor rude lines of thy deceased lover. 

Compare them with the bettering of the time. 

And though they be outstripp’d by every pen. 

Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme. 
Exceeded by the height of happier men. 

O, then vouchsafe me but this loving thought: 

“Had my friend’s Muse grown with this growing age, 
A dearer birth than this his love had brought. 

To march in ranks of better equipage : 

But since he died, and poets better prove. 

Theirs for their style I’ll read, his for his love.” 

XXXII, 1 my well-contented day] the day which well contents me. 

4 lover] male friend; so xxxi, 10, and constantly in Elizabethan English. 
Brutus calls Csesar “my best lover*' (Jul Cobs , III, ii, 44). Portia 
describes Antonio as “the bosom lover ” of Bassanio {Merck, of Ven., 
Ill, iv, 17). See also TroU. and Cress.^ Ill, iii, 214, and Cor., V, ii, 14. 

6 the bettering of the time] Cf. 10, infra: “this growing age” and also 

cxxxii, 8, infra: “the tiine-bettering days.” 

7 Reserve] Preserve. See Ixxxv, 3, and Pericles, IV, i, 41-42: ** reserve 

That excellent complexion.” 

12 To march in ranks . . . equipage] Cf. Nashe’s Pref. to Greene’s Menor 
phon, 1589 : “[Watson’s works] march in equippa^e of honour with any 
of your ancient poets”; and Peek’s Farewell, 1589 (dedic.) : “[so that] 
my countrymen . . . may march in equipage of honour and of arms 
againit the Trojans.” 

[ 88 ] 



Full many a glorious morning have I seen • 

Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye. 

Kissing with golden face the meadows green, 

Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy ; 

Anon permit the basest clouds to ride 
With ugly rack on his celestial face, 

And from the forlorn world his visage hide. 

Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace: 

Even so my sun one early morn did shine 
With all-triumphant splendour on my brow; 

But, out, alack ! he was but one hour mine. 

The region cloud hath mask’d him from me now, 

xxxiii, 1-2 Full many . , . exje] Shakespeare thus describes many times 
the splendour of sunrise. Cf. Venus and Adonisy 857-858: “Who 
doth the world so gloriously behold, That cedar- tops and hills seem 
burnish’d gold.” For the application of the word “flatter” to the 
effect of sunlight, cf. Edward Illy I, ii, 141-142 : “Let not thy presence 
like the April sun Flatter the earth ” 

4 Gilding . . . alchemy^ Qi. Mids. N . Dr.y'lW/viy 391-393: “the eastern 
gate, all fiery- red, Turns into yellow gold his [i e , Neptune’s] salt green 
streams”; and K John, III, i, 77-80: “the glorious sun . . . plays 
ike alchemist. Turning . . the meagre cloddy earth to glittering gold'* 

5-7 Anon permit . . . hide] Cf 1 Hen. /F, I, ii, 190-192 * “the sun Who 
doth permit the base contagious clouds To smother up his beauty from 
the world,” and Two Gent., I, iii, 85-87: 

“ The uncertain glory of an April day. 

Which now shows all the bcniity of the sun, 

And by and by a cloud takes ail away.’‘ 

and xxxiv, 3-4, infra. 

6 rack] wreath or bank of floating clouds 

12 The region cloud] The cloud of the upper air, cf. Fom. and Jul., II, 
ii, 21: “the airy region" and Hamlet, II, ii, 574; “the region kites.” 
3 [ 38 ] 


Yet him for this my love no whit disdQlDBtb 
Suns of the "^orld may stain when heaven’s sun 


Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day, 

And make me travel forth without my cloak, 

To let base clouds o’ertake me in my way. 

Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke ? 

’T is not enough that through the cloud thou break. 

To dry the rain on my storm-beaten face, 

For no man well of such a salve can speak 
That heals the wound and cures not the disgrace: 

Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief ; 

Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss: 

The offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief 
To him that bears the strong offence’s cross. 

Ah, but those tears are pearl which thy love sheds. 
And they are rich and ransom all ill deeds. 

14 stain] grow dim, darken: a rare intransitive use Cf. Bzch //, III, 
lii ,65-^67 : “ [The sun] perceives the envious clouds are bent To dim 
his glory and to stain the track.” So xxxv, 3, infra. 

XXXIV, 3-4 let hose clouds . . . rotten smoke] See note on xxxiii, 5-7, 

4 their rotten smoke] “The base contagious clouds” in the passage from 
1 Hen. IV, quoted above, are described as “foul and ugly mists of 
vapours.” Cf. Lucrece, 778: “With rotten damps ravish the morn- 
ing air.” 

12 bears the strong offence*8 crow] suffers damage from the great offence; 
cross is Malone’s substitution for the original reading loss, which is a 
misprinted repetition of loss, the last word of line 10. “To bear a 
cross” is a common phrase. Cf, As you like U, 11, iv, 10 and see infra, 
xlii, 12: “lay on me this cross.** 




No more be grieved at that which thou hast done; 
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud; 

Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun. 

And .loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud. 

All men make faults, and even 1 in this. 

Authorizing thy trespass with compare. 

Myself corrupting, salving thy amiss. 

Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are; 

For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense — 

Thy adverse party is thy advocate — 

And ’gainst myself a lawful plea commence: 

Such civil war is in my love and hate. 

That I an accessary needs must be 

To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me. 

XXXV, 4 canker^ caterpillar. The allusion is common in Shakespeare’s 
early works; see Ixx, 7, and note, xc, 2, and xcix, 13. 

6 with compare] with the similes cited from the conditions of nature. Cf. 

xxi, 5, supra, 

7 salving thy amiss] palliating thy fault. Cf. Venus and Adonis, 53: 

“blames her ^miss,*" and cli, 3, infra, 

8 Excusing , , , thy sins are] Making for thy sins the sort of excuse which 

is more sinful than thy sins themselves. 

9-10 For to thy sensiud fault , . , thy advocate] I appeal to good sense 
or reason (“thy adverse party”) to act as advocate to palliate thy 
sensual offence. 

12 in my love and hate] in my love of the sinner and hatred of his sin. 
18-14 anaocessary , , . sweet thief] Cf . AlFs Well, 11, US^-S5: “There’s 
honour in the theft; ... I am your accessary Cf. also xl, 9, infra. 
Bamfield in his first sonnet to Ganymede, which embodies much 
legal terminology, has the lines: “There came a thief and stole 
away my heart. And therefore robbed me of my chiefest part.** 

[ 35 ] 




Let me confess that we two must be twain, 

Although our undivided loves are one: 

So shall those blots that do with me remain. 

Without thy help, by me be borne alone. , 

In our two loves there is but one respect. 

Though in our lives a separable spite, 

Which though it alter not love’s sole effect, 

Yet doth it steal sweet hours from love’s delight. 

I may not evermore acknowledge thee. 

Lest my bewailed guilt should do thee shame. 

Nor thou with public kindness honour me, 

Unless thou take that honour from thy name: 

But do not so; I love thee in such sort. 

As thou being mine, mine is thy good report. 


As a decrepit father takes delight 
To see his active child do deeds of youth. 

So I, made lame by fortune’s dearest spite. 

Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth; 

For whether beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit, 

XXXVI, 5 one respect] one regard or a single affection. 

6 a separable spite] a severing, malignant fate; a cruel separation. 

13^14 Bid do not so; . . good report] This couplet is repeated at the end 
of Sonnet xcvi 

XXXVII, 3 lame] used in a figurative sense as in Ixxxix, 3, infra Cf 
Lear, IV, vi, 228 (Quarto): “A most poor man, made lame by 
Fortune* s blows.” (The Folio reads made tame to,) 
dearest] desperate, extreme 

[ 36 ] 


Or any of these all, or all, or more,, 

Entitled in thy parts do crowned sit, 

I make my love engrafted to this store; 

• So then I am not lame, poor, nor despised, 

Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give 
That*! in thy abundance am suflBced 
And by a part of all thy glory live. 

Look, what is best, that best I wish in thee: 

This wish I have ; then ten times happy me ! 


How can my Muse want subject to invent. 

While thou dost breathe, that pour’st into my verse 
Thine own sweet argument, too excellent 
For every vulgar paper to rehearse? 

O, give thyself the thanks, if aught in me 
Worthy perusal stand against thy sight; 

For who ’s so dumb that cannot write to thee. 

When thou thyself dost give invention light ? 

7 Entitled in thy 'part$\ Probably ‘‘Ennobled in thee’'; “deriving (titles of) 
honour from association with thy capacities . ” Cf . Liicrece, 57 (see note) : 
“in that white intitided,*^ wheVe the word has a more difficult 
technical significance. Elsewhere (cf. L L L , V, ii, 800) “intitled 
in” means “ having a just claun to.” The Quarto here reads their 
for thy, a textual confusion of frequent occurrence ; their is 

XXXVIII Cf., for like descriptions of the inspiration inherent in the friend’s 
personal charm, Sonnets Ixxxiii and ciii 
3 Thine own sweet argument] Theme of thine own sweet self. Cf . Spenser’s 
sonnet to Raleigh (Faerie Queene, 1590) : “Thou only fit this argument 
to write,” and Barnes’ ParthenophU, 1593, Sonnet Ixv: **mine argu- 
meni.'* See Ixxvi, 10 and Ixxix, 5. 

[ 37 ] 



Be thou the tenth* Muse, ten times more IB worth 
Than those old nine which rhymers invocate; 

And he that calls on thee, let him bring forth 
Eternal numbers to outlive long date. 

If my slight Muse do please these curious days. 
The pain be mine, but thine shall be the piaise. 


O, how thy worth with manners may I sing. 

When thou art all the better part of me? 

What can mine own praise to mine own self bring? 
And what is ’t but mine own when I praise thee ? 
Even for this let us divided live. 

And our dear love lose name of single one. 

That by this separation I may give 

That due to thee which thou deservest alone. 

O absence, what a torment wouldst thou prove. 

Were it not thy sour leisure gave sweet leave 

10 those old nine which rhymers invocate] Cf. Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella^ 
Sonnet iii: “ Let dainty wits cry on the Sisters nine'* See w/ra, 
Ixxvi, 3-4 

13 curious] critical. 

14 The pain be mine the praise] So Daniel of his sonnets dedicated 

to the Countess of Pembroke {Delia, 1592): “Whereof the travail I 
may challenge mine; But yet the glory. Madam, must be thine." 
XXXIX, 1 with manners] with decency or self-respect. Cf. Ixxxv, 1. 

2 the better part of me] my soul. See note on Com. of Errors, II, ii, 122: 
“thy self’s heUer part," and cf. Ixxiv, 8 , infra. The phrase “the better 
part of me” is similarly used by Daniel {Cleopatra, 1594, dedicated to 
Countess of Pembroke) and by Ovid, Metam., xv, ad fin. in Golding’s 
translation of that passage whence the sonnets so frequently draw 
suggestions; see xv, supra, Iv, lix, Ixiii, Ixiv, and cxxiii. 

[ 88 ] 


To entertain the time with thoughts pf love, 

"Which time and thoughts so sweetly doth deceive, 

A-nd that thou teachest how to make one twain, 

« By praising him here who doth hence remain ! 


Take all my loves, my love, yea, take them all ; 

What hast thou then more than thou hadst before ? 

11 To entertain the time] Cf. Lucrece^ 1361 : “The weary time she cannot 


12 Which time and thoughts . . . deceive] Which doth beguile time and 

thoughts. Cf. Venus and Adonis, 24: *Uime-hegmling sport.*" 

13-14 And that thou . . . doth hence remain] An absent friend can be 
made two persons — one present in the imagination, and the other 
really far away. So Ant and Cleop , I, iii, 102-104: “Our separa- 
tion so abides and flies, That thou residing here go’st yet with me, 
And I hence fleeting here remain with thee.’* 
xl This and the followmg two sonnets associate themselves with Sonnets 
cxxxiii, cxxxiv, and cxliv, in all of which reference is made to the 
friend’s intrigue with the poet’s mistress. The rivalry here indicated 
in the poet’s heart between friendship with a man and love for a 
woman is no uncommon theme of Renaissance poetry. Petrarch 
(Sonnet ccxxvii) confesses to the double sentiment : 

* Carit^ di signore, amor di donna 
Son le catene, ove con multi affanni 
Legato son, perch’io stesso mi strinsi. ” 

Cf. Beza’s Poemata, 1548, Epigrammata, xc: “De sua in Candi- 
dam et Audebertum benevolentia.” Clement Marot in a poetic ad- 
dress: “A celle qui souhaita Marot aussi amoureux d’elle qu’un 
sien Amy” {(Euvres, 1565, p 437), describmg his solicitation in love 
by a friend’s mistress, diagnoses a like conflict of emotions. The closest 
parallel to the Shakespearean situation (see esp. Sonnet xlii) is that 
described by Saint Evremond, who, complaining of a close friend’s 

[ 39 ] 


No love, my love, Ahat thou mayst true love call ; 

All mine was thine before thou hadst this more. 

Then, if for my love thou my love receivest, 

I cannot blame thee for my love thou usest; 

But yet be blamed, if thou thyself deceives! 

By wilful taste of what thyself refuses!. 

I do forgive thy robbery, gentle thief. 

Although thou steal thee all my poverty; 

And yet, love knows, it is a greater grief 
To bear love’s wrong than hate’s known injury. 
Lascivious grace, in whom all ill well shows. 

Kill me with spites ; yet we must not be foes. 


Those pretty wrongs that liberty commits. 

When I am sometime absent from thy heart. 

Thy beauty and thy years full well befits. 

For still temptation follows where thou art. 

guilty relations with his mistress (apparently la Comtesse d’OIonne), 
wrote thus to her in 1654 of his twofold affection: “Apprenez-moi 
contre qui je me dois f^her d’avantage, ou contre lui qui m’ enleve 
une maitresse, ou contre vous, qui me volez un ami . . . J*ai trop de 
passion pour donner rien au ressentiment ; ma tendresse Timportera 
toujours sur vos outrages. J’aime la perfide, j’aime rinfid^e.” 
{CEuvres Melees de Saint Evremondf ed Giraud, 1865, iii, 5 ) 
5-6 for my love ,,, for my love] for love of me , . . because my love 
[i. e.y my mistress]. 

8 what thyself ref usest] that lascivious indulgence which thou in reality 


9 thy robbery^ gesUU thief] Cf, xxxv, 13, supra, 

13 Lascivious grace . . • shows] Cf. xcv, 12, in/ro. 

XLi, 1 liberty] licentiousness. 

[ 40 ] 


Gentle thou art, and therefore to be won, 

Beauteous thou art, therefore to be assailed ; 

And when a woman woos, what woman’s son 
Will sourly leave her till she have prevailed ? 

Ay me ! but yet thou mightst my seat forbear. 

And chide thy beauty and thy straying youth, 

Who lead thee in their riot even there 
Where thou art forced to break a twofold truth. 

Hers, by thy beauty tempting her to thee. 

Thine, by thy beauty being false to me. 


That thou hast her, it is not all my grief. 

And yet it may be said I loved her dearly; 

That she hath thee, is of my wailing chief, 

A loss in love that touches me more nearly. 

Loving offenders, thus I will excuse ye: 

Thou dost love her, because thou know’st I love her; 
And for my sake even so doth she abuse me, 

Suffering my friend for my sake to approve her. 

If I lose thee, my loss is my love’s gain, 

5 Gentle thou art ... to be won\ Almost identical expressions figure in 
/ Hen. VI, V, iii, 78-79; Rich HI, I, ii, 228-229; Tit. Andr , II, i, 
82-83 Cf. Greene’s Orpharion, 1599 (Works, ed Grosart, xii, p. 31) . 
“she is but a woman, and therefore to be wonne ” 

8 till she have] Malone’s substitution of the Quarto till he have, which may 

be right. 

9 my seat] Cf. Othello, II, i, 289-290: “the lusty Moor Hath leap’d 

into my seat.'* So Lucrece, 413: “this fair throne.” 

12 o twofold trulK] the fidelity of both friend and mistress to the poet. 
XLII, 7 abuse] ill use. 

8 to approve her] to win her approval or alFection. 

[ 41 ] 


And losing her, my friend hath found that loss ; lo 

Both find each other, and I lose both twain, 

And both for my sake lay on me this cross : 

But here ’s the joy; my friend and I are one; « 
Sweet flattery ! then she loves but me alone. 


When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see. 

For all the day they view things unrespected; 

But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee. 

And, darkly bright, are bright in dark directed. 

Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bngh.. 
How would thy shadow’s form form happy show 
To the clear day with thy much clearer light. 

When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so ! 

How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made 
By looking on thee in the living day, lo 

When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade 
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay ! 

All days are nights to see till I see thee. 

And nights bright days when dreams do show thee 

11 hath twain] A reduplication only found elsewhere in L.L.L.^ V, ii, 459. 
13-14 my friend and I are one ,,, but me alone] Cf. cxxxv, 14 : “Think 
all but one, and me in that one Will. ** 

TT.TTt This sonnet was omitted from Shakespeare’s “Poems” of 1640, Its 
theme resembles that of xxvii and Ixi. 

1 winl^ shut the eyes ; a common usage. Cf Ivi, 6. 

‘2 unrespected] without taking particular notice, unnoticeable. 

4 are bright in dark directed] are guided in the dark by the brightness (of 

thy “ shadow ” or apparition). 

5 whose shadow] Cf. xxvii, 10: “thy shadow," and note, and Ixi. 1 seq. 

[ 42 ] 


xuv , 

If the dull substance of my flesh were thought. 
Injurious distance should not stop my way; 

For then, despite of space, I would be brought, 

Froip limits far remote, where thou dost stay. 

No matter then although my foot did stand 
Upon the farthest earth removed from thee; 

For nimble thought can jump both sea and land. 

As soon as think the place where he would be. 

But, ah, thought kills me, that I am not thought. 

To leap large lengths of miles when the a art gone, 

But ♦^hat so much of earth and water W”ought, 

I must alter’d time’s leisure with ray meai , 

Receiving rcught by elements so s- 
But hca\y teois. badges of either’s woe. 


The other two, slight air and purging fire. 

Are both with thee, wherever I abide ; 

XLiv, 7-8 For nimble thought ... he woidd fte] Sonnets dealing in like 
manner with thought’s triumph over spare are very common in 
Renaissance poetry. Cf Ronsard, Ameurs, I, clxviii: “Ce fol 
penser, pour s’envoler trop haiit” , Du Bellay’s Olwe, xliii: “Penser 
volage, et leger corame vent” ; Amadis Jamyn, Sonnet xxi : “Penser, 
mui peux en uii moment grande erre Courir”, and Tasso’s RiTne 
• ^83, Venice, i, p 33). “Come s’ human pensier di giunger lenta 
Al luogo.” 

9 thought] care or anxiety 

XLV, '^he other two . . . fire] Air and fire, making up with “earth and 
er” (already mentioned, xliv, 11) the four elements, constitute 
I ’ and nature. Cf. Spenser’s Faerie Queene, bk. vii, canto i, 

[ 43 ] 



The first my thought, the other my desire. 

These present-absent with swift motion slide. 

For when these quicker elements are gone 
In tender embassy of love to thee. 

My life, being made of four, with two alone 
Sinks down to death, oppress’d with melancholy ; . 
Until life’s composition be recured 
By those swift messengers return’d from thee. 

Who even but now come back again, assured 
Of thy fair health, recounting it to me : 

This told, I joy; but then no longer glad, 

I send them back again, and straight grow sad. 


Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war. 

How to divide the conquest of thy sight; 

st. 24-25 and Amoretti, Sonnet Iv, and Bames^ Parihenophil (1593), 
Sonnet Ixxvii This popular natural philosophy was universally 
accepted (cf. Tw. Night, II, lii, 9; “Does not our life consist of the 
four elements?'^). Here Shakespeare probably drew directly upon 
the philosophic reflections which close Ovid’s Metam (bk. xv). 
Of the “four substances of which all things are gendred . . ” 
wrote Ovid, according to Golding’s translation (ed 1612, p 186 a and 
h). “The earth and water for their masses and weight are sunken 
lower, The other couple ayre and fire, the purer of the twaine. 
Mount up and nought can keepe them downe.” See also xv, xxxix, 
Iv, lix, Ixiii, Ixiv, and cxxiii. 

5 these quicker elements] Cf. Hen. V, III, vii, 21-22: “he is pure air and 
fire, and the dull elements of earth and water never appear in him,” 
and Ant. and Cleop., V, ii, 287-288: “I am fire and air; my other 
elements I give to baser life.” So Drayton’s eulogy of Marlowe ; “his 
raptures were all air and fire.^^ 

XLVl, 1 Mine eye and heart . . . war] The war between the eye and the 



Mine eye my heart thy picture’s sight would bar. 

My heart mine eye the freedom ot that right. 

My heart doth plead that thou in him dost lie, 

A closet never pierced with crystal eyes. 

But the defendant doth that plea deny. 

And says in him thy fair appearance lies. 

To ’cide this title is impanneled 
A quest of thoughts, all tenants to the heart; 

And by their verdict is determined 

The clear eye’s moiety and the dear heart’s part: 

As thus; mine eye’s due is thine outward part. 
And my heart’s right thine inward love of heart. 

heart is a favourite topic among Renaissance sonneteers, the cue 
being given them by their master Petrarch, whose Sonnet Iv is a 
dialogue between the poet and his eyes, and Sonnet xeix is a companion 
dialogue between the poet and his heart Ronsard treats the conceit 
in an ode (bk iv, ode 20). Among English versions contemporary 
with Shakespeare the most familiar are Watson’s Teares of Fanoie 
(1593), xix and xx, a pair of sonnets closely resembling Shakespeare’s 
Sonnets xlvi and xlvii, Drayton’s Idea, xxiii, Barnes’ ParthenophUy xx, 
and Constable’s Diana; Decade vi, Sonnet vii 
9-10 impanneled A quest] empanelled a jury. The legal terminology of 
this sonnet is common in Spenser, Barnes, Barnfield, and many other 
writers of the day. Cf the Faene QueenCy bk. vi, vii, 34 : “Therefore 
a jurie was impaneled streight.” 

tenants] Barnes in Parthenophd (1593) who constantly uses legal lan- 
guage opens his Sonnet xx thus : 

“These eyes (thy Beauty’s Tenants f) pay due tears 
For occupation of mine heart, thy freehold, 

In tenure of Love’s service ” 

See Ixxxvii, 3 seq.y and note 

12 moiety] part; not necessarily “half ” Cf Shakespeare’s dedication to 
Southampton in Lucrcce. “this pamphlet is but a superfluous moiety'' 

[ 46 ] 



Betwixt mine eye and heart a league is took. 

And each doth good turns now unto the other: 

When that mine eye is famish’d for a look, 

Or heart in love with sighs himself doth smother. 

With my love’s picture then my eye doth feast 
And to the painted banquet bids my heart; 

Another time mine eye is my heart’s guest 
And in his thoughts of love doth share a part: 

So, either by thy picture or my love, 

Thyself away art present still with me; lo 

For thou not farther than my thoughts canst move, 
And I am still with them and they with thee; 

Or, if they sleep, thy picture in my sight 
Awakes my heart to heart’s and eye’s delight. 


How careful was I, when I took my way. 

Each trifle under truest bars to thrust. 

That to my use it might unused stay 

From hands of falsehood, in sure wards of trust ! 

XLVII, 3-6 When that mine eye . . . bids my heart] This passage clearly 
suggested the lines (V, i, 18-22) in Suckling’s Tragedy oj BrennoraU: 

“ Will you not send me neither 
Your picture when y* are gone? 

Thai when my eije is jamisht for a looke. 

It may have where to feed. 

And to the painted Feast invite my heart'' 

For famish’d for a look,” cf. Com, of Errors, II, i, 88: “starve for 
a merry look,’* and Ixxv, 10, infra. 

10-12 Thyself away . . . they vrUh thee] Cf. xxxix, 13-14 and the illus- 
trative quotation there cited from Ant. and Chop., I, iii, 102-104. 

[ 46 ] 


But thou, to whom my jewels trifles are, 

Most worthy comfort, now my greatest grief. 

Thou, best of dearest and mine only care. 

Art left the prey of every vulgar thief. 

Thee have I not lock’d up in any chest. 

Save where thou art not, though I feel thou art. 
Within the gentle closure of my breast, 

From whence at pleasure thou mayst come and part; 
And even thence thou wilt be stol’n, I fear, 

For truth proves thievish for a prize so dear. 


Against that time, if ever that time come, 

When I shall see thee frown on my defects. 

When as thy love hath cast his utmost sum, 

Call’d to that audit by advised respects; 

Against that time when thou shalt strangely pass, 

And scarcely greet me with that sun, thine eye. 

When love, converted from the thing it was. 

Shall reasons find of settled gravity ; 

XLViii, 11 Within the gentle closure of my breast] Cf Venjis and Adonis^ 
782: ‘‘Into the quiet closure of my breast,' and Rich III, III, iii, 11 : 
“Within the guilty closure of thy walls “ 

14 For truth . . . 'prize so dear] Cf. Venus and Adonis, 724: “Rich 
preys make true men thieves.” 

XLIX The sonnet closely resembles Sonnet Ixxxviii. 

4 by advised respects] for well-considered reasons; so K. John, IV, ii, 214: 

“advised respect.” 

5 strangely] like a stranger; so cx, 6. Cf Ixxxix, 8. 

7-8 When love, converted . . . settled gravity] Cf Jul. Cces., IV, ii, 20-21: 
‘ ‘ When love begins to sicken and decay, It useth an enforced ceremony.” 

[ 47 ] 


Against that time do I ensconce me here 

Within the knowledge of mine own desert, lo 

And this my hand against myself uprear. 

To guard the lawful reasons on thy part : 

To leave poor me thou hast the strength of laws. 
Since why to love I can allege no cause. 

How heavy do I journey on the way, 

When what I seek, my weary travel’s end. 

Doth teach that ease and that repose to say, 

“ Thus far the miles are measured from thy friend !” 
The beast that bears me, tired with my woe. 

Plods dully on, to bear that weight in me. 

As if by some instinct the wretch did know 
His rider loved not speed, being made from thee: 

The bloody spur cannot provoke him on 

That sometimes anger thrusts into his hide; lo 

Which heavily he answers with a groan. 

More sharp to me than spurring to his side; 

For that same groan doth put this in my mind; 

My grief lies onward, and my joy behind. 

9 ensconce] seclude or protect or fortify. 

10 desert] lack of desert, demerit. Cf Ixxxviii, 5: “with mine own weak- 

ness being best acquainted.” 

11 this my hand . . . uprear] Cf. Ixxxix, 13 and cxlix, 2: “When I 
* against myself with thee partake.” 

12 on thy part] on thy side. Cf. Ixxxviii, 6, infra. 

L This and the next sonnet are run together in the “Poems” of 1640 
under the single heading, “Goe and come quickly.” They develop 
the theme of travel already noticed in Sonnets xxvii and xxviii. 

[ 48 ] 


Thus can my love excuse the slow offence 
Of my dull bearer when from thee I speed : 

From where thou art why should I haste me thence ? 
Tin I return, of posting is no need. 

O, what excuse will my poor beast then find. 

When swift extremity can seem but slow ? 

Then should I spur, though mounted on the wind. 

In winged speed no motion shall I know: 

Then can no horse with my desire keep pace; 
Therefore desire, of perfect’st love being made, 

Shall neigh — no dull flesh — in his fiery race ; 

But love, for love, thus shall excuse my jade; 

Since from thee going he went wilful-slow. 
Towards thee I’ll run and give him leave to go. 


So am I as the rich, whose blessed key 
Can bring him to his sweet up-locked treasure, 

The which he will not every hour survey, 

LI, 1 slow ojjence] offence of slowness 

6 swift extremity] the extreme of swiftness. 

7 mounted on the wind] Cf. As you like ity III, ii, 80: “Her worth being 

mounted on the windy” and ^ Hen IV y Inductiouy 4. “Making the 
wind my post-horse ” 

11 Shall neigh . . fiery race] Desire, which is all spirit and no dull flesh, 
shall neigh in the excitement of its impassioned flight (which alto- 
gether outdistances the pace of the horse) Cf Venus and Adonis, 
307 (of the stallion) “He looks upon his love, and neighs unto her.” 
14 to g6\ to walk; a common usage Cf cxxx, 11. 

4 [ 49 ] 



For blunting the fine point of seldom pleasure. 
Therefore are feasts so solemn and SO rare. 

Since, seldom coming, in the long year set. 

Like stones of worth they thinly placed are, 

Or captain jewels in the carcanet. 

So is the time that keeps you as my chest. 

Or as the wardrobe which the robe doth hide. 

To make some special instant special blest. 

By new unfolding his imprison’d pride. 

Blessed are you, whose worthiness gives scope. 
Being had, to triumph, being lack’d, to hope. 


What is your substance, whereof are you made. 

That millions of strange shadows on you tend ? 

Lii, 4 For blunting] For fear of blunting. For the sentiment cf. cii, 12 : 

“And sweets grown common lose their dear delight.” 

5-7 Therefore are feasts . . . thinly placed are] Cf 1 Hen. IF, I, ii, 197- 
199 : “If all the year were playing holidays, To sport would be as ted- 
ious as to work; But when they seldom come they wish’d for come.” 
So Montaigne’s Essays “On Inequality” (bk. i, ch. xlii): “Feasts 
rejoyce them that but seldome see them . . . ; the taste of which 
becometh cloysome.” 

8 captain jewels] the principal jewels in a necklace. 
carcanet] only used elsewhere by Shakespeare in Com. of Errors, HI, i, 
4 It is formed from the French “carcan,” a necklace. 

13-14 Blessed are you ... to hope] Blessed are you whose excellence is 
such that your presence brings me triumph, your absence fills me with 
the hope of a meeting. 

Lin, 1-12 What is your substance . . . shape we know] The common 
notion that every beautiful aspect of nature reflects or borrows 
attributes of the beloved one’s form (cf . xeix, infra) is here subtilised 
into the complementary fancy that the beloved one s form has in 

[ 60 ] 


Since every one hath, every one, on^ shade. 

And you, but one, can every shadow lend. 

Describe Adonis, and the counterfeit 
Is poorly imitated after you; 

On Helen’s cheek all art of beauty set. 

And you in Grecian tires are painted new : 

Speak of the spring and foison of the year. 

The one doth shadow of your beauty show. 

The other as your bounty doth appear; 

And you in every blessed shape we know. 

In all external grace you have some part, 

But you like none, none you, for constant heart. 


O, how much more doth beauty beauteous seem 
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give ! 

The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem 
For that sweet odour which doth in it live. 

The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye 

attendance and at command the forms or essences of all nature’s 
manifestations This fancy is more directly and simply presented 
at cxiii, 5, injra^ where Petrarch’s less subtle treatment of the topic 
is followed (see note) 

2 Grange shadows^ shadows or images of independent entities 
5-6 Describe Adonis . after yoi^ So Bamfield’s Sonnets to Ganymede, 
xvii: “Cherry-lipt Adonis m his snowie shape Might not compare 
with his [t c., Ganymede’s] pure iuorie white ” 

8 tires^ attires, dress. “Tires” is elsewhere used for “headdresses.” 

9 foison\ harvest. A French word thrice used by Shakespeare elsewhere. 

Cf. Temped, II, i, 157; IV, i, 110, Macb , IV, iii, 88. 

Liv, 5 canker-blocms] blossoms of the wild dog-rose, commonly called 


[ 61 ] 


As the perfumed tincture of the roses, 

Hang on such thorns, and play as wantonly 
When summer’s breath their masked buds discloses : 
But, for their virtue only is their show. 

They live unwoo’d and unrespected fade; 

Die to themselves. Sweet roses do not so; 

Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made: 

And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth, 

When that shall vade, by verse distills your truth. 


Not marble, nor the gilded monuments 
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme; 

But you shall shine more bright in these contents 
Than unswept stone, besmear’d with sluttish time. 
When wasteful war shall statues overturn. 

And broils root out the work of masonry. 

8 their masked buds discloses] Cf. Hamlet^ I, iii, 39-40 • “the infants of the 

spring . before their buttons [i e., buds] be disclosed ” 

9 show] outward appearance. Cf xciii, 14, infra. 

11 Die to themselves] Cf. xciv, 10: “Though to itself it only . . die.** 
13-14 And so of you . . distills your truth] Cf. v, 9, supra^ and note 
14 When that shall vade] When beauty of youth shall fade; “vade” is 
an original form of “fade ” Cf Pass. Pdg.y xiii, 2, 6, 8 
by verse] the original reading for which Malone substituted my verse 
Lv, I Not marble^ etc] An echo of Horace’s “Exegi monumentum aere 
perennius,” but mainly an adaptation (see esp. 11 7-8), of Ovid’s 
claim to immortality in his Metam , xv, ad fin. From lines 
preceding this passage in Golding’s familiar translation of Ovid 
Shakespeare clearly borrowed most of his philosophic reflections and 
illustrations in the sonnets ; see xv, lix, lx, Ixiii, Ixiv^ and cxxiii. 

[ 62 ] 


Nor Mars his sword nor war’s quick, fire shall burn 
The living record of your memory. 

’Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity 
•Shall you pace forth ; your praise shall still find room 
Even in the eyes of all posterity 
That wear this world out to the ending doom. 

So, till the judgement that yourself arise. 

You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes. 


Sweet love, renew thy force; be it not said 
Thy edge should blunter be than appetite. 

Which but to-day by feeding is allay’d. 

To-morrow sharpen’d in his former might: 

So, love, be thou; although to-day thou fill 
Thy hungry eyes even till they wink with fulness, 
To-morrow see again, and do not kill 
The spirit of love with a perpetual dulness. 

7 Nor Mars . . . shall bum] Cf Ovid’s Metam.y translated by Golding, 
bk. XV, ad fin : 

“ Now have 1 brought a worke to end which neither loue’s fierce wrath 
Nor sword nor fire nor treating age with all the force it hath 
Are able to abohsh quight, etc 

9 aU-oblivious enmity] enmity which causes oblivion 

wear this world out] Cf Lear, IV, vi, 134-135 “This great world 
Shall so wear out to nought.” 

IS Soy till , ' . yourself arise] Till the judgment day when you shall arise 
from the tomb. 

LVI This sonnet was omitted from Shakespeare’s “Poems” of 1640. 

6 wink] close, shut. Cf xliii, 1. 

[ 68 ] 



Let this sad interim like the ocean be 
Which parts the shore, where two contracted new 
Come daily to the banks, that, when they see 
Return of love, more blest may be the view; 

Or call it winter, which, being full of care. 

Makes summer’s welcome thrice more wish’d", more 


Being your slave, what should I do but tend 
Upon the hours and times of your desire? 

I have no precious time at all to spend. 

Nor services to do, till you require. 

Nor dare I chide world-without-end hour 
Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you, 
Nor think the bitterness of absence sour 
When you have bid your servant once adieu; 
Nor dare I question with my jealous thought 
Where you may be, or your affairs suppose. 

But, like a sad slave, stay and think of nought 
Save, where you are how happy you make those. 

10 two contracted new] two newly betrothed lovers. 

111^ 6anj»] the shores. 

13 Or] Thus Malone. The Quarto reads As. 

LTii, 5 tDorld-wUhout-end hour] the endless or never.«nding^ hour. Cf. 

L. L. L., V, ii, 777: “a world-withovt-end bai^ain.” 

1£ where you are . . . make those] how happy you make those where 


So true a fool is love that in yoilr will. 

Though you do any thing, he thinks no ill. 


That god forbid that made me first your slave, 

I should in thought control your times of pleasure. 

Or at your hand the account of hours to crave. 

Being your vassal, bound to stay your leisure ! 

O, let me suffer, being at your beck. 

The imprison’d absence of your liberty ; 

And patience, tame to sufferance, bide each check. 
Without accusing you of injury. 

Be where you list, your charter is so strong 
That you yourself may privilege your time 
To what you will ; to you it doth belong 
Yourself to pardon of self-doing crime. 

I am to wait, though waiting so be hell. 

Not blame your pleasure, be it ill or well. 

13 in your vnU\ whatever your will or pleasure. In the Quarto wHl, 
although not italicised, is spelt with a capital W, as was the usual 
practice at the time in the case of this and like words in poetry, e. g , 
Nature, Truth, Wit, Zeal, Soul. A doubtful endeavour has been 
made to detect in the word here a tame pun on the poet’s Christian 
name, i. in case of your Will, or William. See cxxi, 8; “zn their 
vnUsy** and cxxxv and cxxxvi passim with the notes. 

Lvni, 6 The imprison'd . . . liberty] The absence which means libert}' 
to you and to me the confinement of a prison. 

7 tame to sufferance] complaisant in suffering. Cf. K. John^ IV, ii, 262: 

**tame to their obedience.’* 

9 charier] Cf. Ixxivii, 3, infra. 

[ 66 ] 



If there be nothing new, but that which is 
Hath been before, how are our brains beguiled. 

Which, labouring for invention, bear amiss 
The second burthen of a former child ! 

O, that record could with a backward look, 

Even of five hundred courses of the sun, 

Show me your image in some antique book. 

Since mind at first in character was done. 

That I might see what the old world could say 
To this composed wonder of your frame ; 

Whether we are mended, or whether better they, 

Or whether revolution be the same. 

LIX, 1-4 // there be nothing . . . former chiM\ These lines again develop 
Ovid’s philosophy at the close of the Metam. Cf. Golding’s trans- 
lation (1612 ed. p. 186 6): “All things do change but nothing sure 
doth perish . , . The soul is aye the selfsame thing it was . 
Neither doth there perish aught in all the world, but altering takes 
new shape . . Things pass perchance from place to place, yet all 
from whence they came Returning do unperished continue still the 
same.” See also xv, Ixiii, and Ixiv, and see cxxiii, 4, and note. 

6 courses of the sun] years. So Othello, III, iv, 71: “The sun to course 

two hundred compasses,” and Hen, VIII, II, iii, 5-6: “after So 
many courses of the sun." 

7 some antique booh] Cf. cvi, 7* “their antique pen ” 

8 Sirwe mind . . . was done] Since thought was first expressed in hand- 


11 Whether . . . whether] The word is here a monosyllable. In the 

next line it is a diasyllable. 

12 Whether be the same] whether revolving time produce recurrence 

of the same effects , whether the present and future be a mere return 
or reproduction of a past cycle; cf. cxxiii, 4, and note. 

[ 66 ] 


O, sure I am, the wits of former days 
To subjects worse have given admiring praise. 


Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore. 

So do our minutes hasten to their end; 

Each changing place with that which goes before. 

In sequent toil all forwards do contend. 

Nativity, once in the main of light. 

Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d. 

Crooked eclipses ’gainst his glory fight, 

And Time that gave doth now his gift confound. 

Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth 
And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow. 

Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth, 

LX, 1-4 Like as the waves do contend] For another illustration from 
Ovid’s description of Nature’s ebb and flow in Metam , xv, cf 
Golding’s transl. (ed. 1612, p. 185 b): “As every wave drives others 
forth and that that comes behmd Both thrusteth and is thrust itself ; 
even so the tymes by kind Do flee and follow both at once and 
evermore renew ’’ 

5 the main of light] the full expanse of light; so “main” is commonly 
used of the great expanse of sea. Ovid (Metam , xv, Golding’s transl , 
ed. 1612, p. 186 o) describes “Dame Nature” as bringing man out 
from the womb “ [in] to ayre,” for him to pass “forth the space of 
youth,” to wear “out his middle age apace,” and finally to have his 
strength “undermined ” by age and to be consumed “every whit” 
by “lingering death ” 

7 Crooked] Malignant, ill-omened. 

8 confound] destroy. 

9 flourish] ornament Cf Hamlets TI, ii, 91 . “outward flourishes ” 

10 parallels] lines. Cf. ii, 2: “dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,” 

and xix,-9-10 See also TroiL and Cress , I, iii, 168 

[ 67 ] 



And nothing stands but for his scythe ■to mow : 

And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand. 
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand. 


Is it thy will thy image should keep open 
My heavy eyelids to the weary night? 

Dost thou desire my slumbers should be broken. 

While shadows like to thee do mock my sight ? 

Is it thy spirit that thou send’st from thee 
So far from home into my deeds to pry, 

To find out shames and idle hours in me, 

The scope and tenour of thy jealousy ? 

O, no ! thy love, though much, is not so great : 

It is my love that keeps mine eye awake ; 

Mine own true love that doth my rest defeat. 

To play the watchman ever for thy sake: 

For thee watch I whilst thou dost wake elsewhere, 
From me far off, with others all too near. 


Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye 
And all my soul and all my every part; 

And for this sin there is no remedy. 

It is so grounded inward in my heart. 

13 to times in hope] to future ages. Cf. Daniel's Delia^ xxxix, ^10: 

“ Thou mayst tn after ages live esteemedy Unburied in these lines ” 
LXi, 1-4 Is it thy will my sights] The same idea is repeated in 

xxvii and xliii. 

7 idle hours] Cf. Venus and Adonisy Dedication: “I vow to take advan- 
taae of all idle hours'* 

[ 68 ] 



Methinks no face so gracious is as mine, 

No shape so true, no truth of such* account ; 

And for myself mine own worth do define. 

As I all other in all worths surmount. 

But when my glass shows me myself indeed, 

Seated and chopp’d with tann’d antiquity. 

Mine own self-love quite contrary I read; 

Self so self-loving were iniquity. 

’T is thee, myself, that for myself I praise. 
Painting my age with beauty of thy days. 


Against my love shall be, as I am now. 

With Time’s injurious hand crush’d and o’erwom; 
When hours have drain’d his blood and fill’d his brow 
With lines and wrinkles ; when his youthful morn 

ijcn, 6 No shape so triie] Cf. Lear, I, ii, 8: “my shape as true.'" 

9-10 Bvt when my glass . . . antiquity^ See note on xxii, 1, supra. 

10 Seated and chopp'd] Pared (or rubbed away) and chapped (or wrinkled). 
Cf. ^ Hen. IV, III, ii, 267: “a little, lean, old, chapt, bald shot’' 
(see note there). “Seated " is still used as in the context in provincial 

12 self-lotring were iniquity] Cf. All "s Well, I, i, 136-137: self-love which 

is the most inhibited sin in the canon.” 

13 "T IS thee . . . praise] It is thee who art identical with myself, whom 

I praise as if I were praising myself. 

14 Painting my age . . . days] Cf L. L. L., IV, iii, 240: ** Beauty doth 

varnish age as if new-born ” 

LXIII, 1 Against] Against that time w’hen; as in xlix, 1-2. 

2 o'erwom] Cf. Venus and Adonis, 135. '"O'erwom, despised,” etc., and 
Ixiv, 2:,** out-worn." 

[ 69 ] 


Hath traveird on to age’s steepy night, 

And all those beauties whereof now he’s king 
Are vanishing or vanish’d out of sight. 

Stealing away the treasure of his spring; 

For such a time do I now fortify 

Against confounding age’s cruel knife, . to 

That he shall never cut from memory 
My sweet love’s beauty, though my lover’s life: 

His beauty shall in these black lines be seen. 

And they shall live, and he in them still green. 


When I have seen by Time’s fell hand defaced 
The rich-proud cost of outworn buried age ; 

When sometime lofty towers I see down-razed, 

5 age*s steepy night] the steep declining path of old age to the night of 
death. The phrase is yet another reminiscence of Golding’s translation 
of Ovid’s Metam bk xv (1612 ed , p 186 a); “Through drooping 
age's steepy path he [i. e., man] runneth out his race” (after passing 
“forth the space of youth,” etc ). Cf. xv, lix, lx, Ixiv, cxxiii for other 
allusions to the same passage in Ovid. “Steepy” is only found else- 
where in Shakespeare in Tim. of Ath , I, i, 78: “the steepy mount.” 
'^Steepy mountains” is read in the England's Helicon version of 
Marlowe’s “Come live with me and be my love” (line 4), the Pass 
Pilgrim voisioii reads craggy mouiitaiiLs” (xx, 4). 

9-10 I now fortify cruel knife] Cf Daniel’s De/'m, Sonnet 1 “These 
are the arks the trophies I erect That fortify thy name against old 
age ” Cf. for “fortify” xvi, 3, supra 
13 black lines] Cf. Ixv, 14: “black ink ” 

LXIV, 2 rich-proud cost . . . the costly and proud splendour of the 
dead and buried past Cf. Lnrrece^ 1350 “the worn-out age," and 
supra, Ixiii, 2: '*o’erwom." See also Ixviii, 1 “days outworn." 

[ 60 ] 


And brass eternal slave to mortal rage; 

When I have seen the hungry odean gain 
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore. 

And the firm soil win of the watery main, 

Increasing store with loss and loss with store; 

W%en I have seen such interchange of state. 

Or state itself confounded to decay ; 

Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate. 

That Time will come and take my love away. 

This thought is as a death, which cannot choose 
But weep to have that which it fears to lose. 


Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea. 
But sad mortality o’er-sways their power. 

How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea, 

Whose action is no stronger than a flower? 

O, how shall summer’s honey breath hold out 
Against the wreckful siege of battering days, 

5-10 When I have seen . to decat/] Such revolution of nature, as the 
encroachment of land and sea one upon the other, is again noticed 
in ^ Hen. 7F, III, i, 45-51. The illustration is one more of 
Shakespeare’s man} echoes in the sonnets of the philosophic dis- 
quisition in Ovid’s Metam., xv (cf Golding’s transl , 1612 ed , 
p 186 h) : 

“Even so haue places often-time.s exchanged their estate. 

For I have seme it sea which was substantial! ground alate 
Againe where sea was, 1 have scene the same become dry land.” 

Cf. cxxiii, 4, infra, and note. 

13-14 This thought . weep to have] “Thought” is tlie subject of 
the«»relative "‘which “weep to have” means “weep at having.” 

[ 61 ] 


When rocks impregnable are not so stout, 

Nor gates of steel so sicrong, but Time decays ? 

O fearful meditation ! where, alack. 

Shall Time’s best jewel from Time’s chest lie hid? lo 
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back ? 

Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid ? 

O, none, unless this miracle have might. 

That in black ink my love may still shine bright. 


Tired with all these, for restful death I cry, 

As, to behold desert a beggar born. 

And needy nothing trimm’d in jollity. 

And purest faith unhappily forsworn. 

And gilded honour shamefully misplaced. 

And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted, 

A.nd right perfection wrongfully disgraced. 

And strength by limping sway disabled. 

And art made tongue-tied by authority. 

And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill, lo 

And simple truth miscall’d simplicity. 

And captive good attending captain ill : 

Lxv, 10 Time's best jewel . . . chest] The best jewel that ever came from 
Time’s chest. Cf. Hi, 8-9, supra: “So is the time that keeps you 
as my chest, ” etc. 

14 black ink] Cf. Ixiii, 13; “black lines.” 

LXVI For the pessimistic sentiment see note on xxix, supra, Cf. hucrece^ 
902-912, and Uamld, HI, i, 70-74. 

I with aR these] with all the ills which follow. 

II simplicity] folly, stupidity. 

[ 68 ] 


Tired with all these, from these would I be gone, 
Save that, to die, I leave my* love alone. 


Ah, wherefore with infection should he live 
And with his presence grace impiety, 

That sin by him advantage should achieve 
And lace itself with his society ? 

Why should false painting imitate his cheek. 

And steal dead seeing of his living hue ? 

Why should poor beauty indirectly seek 
Roses of shadow, since his rose is true? 

Why should he live, now Nature bankrupt is. 
Beggar’d of blood to blush through lively veins ? 

For she hath no exchequer now but his. 

And, proud of many, lives upon his gains. 

O, him she stores, to show what wealth she had 
In days long since, before these last so bad. 


Thus is his cheek the map of days outworn. 

When beauty lived and died as flowers do now, 

LXVIl Cf. cxxvii, m/m, for a like lament on the degeneracy of the age 
4 lace itself] adorn or ornament itself; no uncommon usage. 

6 dead seeing] a lifeless semblance or aspect of beauty Seeing may be 

right, but seeming^ i. e., appearance, is substituted by Capell. 

7 poor heavty indirectly seek] defective beauty falsely or wrongfully seek. 
LXVIII, 1 map of days oviwom] picture of the past So L^icrece, 402: 

**map of death,” and 1350: pattern of the worn-out age.'* Cf. 
Ixiv, 2, supra, and note. 




Before these bastard signs of fair were born, 

Or durst inhabit on a*living brow ; 

Before the golden tresses of the dead, 

The right of sepulchres, were shorn away. 

To live a second life on second head; 

Ere beauty’s dead fleece made another gay : 

In him those holy antique hours are seen, 

Without all ornament, itself and true. 

Making no summer of another’s green. 

Robbing no old to dress his beauty new; 

And him as for a map doth Nature store. 

To show false Art what beauty was of yore. 


Those parts of thee that the world’s eye doth view 
Want nothing that the thought of hearts can mend ; 
All tongues, the voice of souls, give thee that due, 

3 fair] beauty. For the substantive use cf. Com. of Errors^ II, i, 98; xvi, 
11, supra; and Ixxxiii, infra. 

5-7 Before the golden tresses . . . second head] Shakespeare repeatedly 
denounces the practice of wearing false hair which was often shorn 
off the scalps of the dead. Cf. Merck of V en.s III, ii, 95-96: “the 
dowry of a second head^ The skull that bred them in the sepulchre.” 
So also L. L. L.y IV, iii, 255 and Hen F, III, vii, 60. The practice 
is fully exposed in Stubbe^s Anatomie of Abuses (New Shaksp Soc , I, 
68, 258). The satirist Goddard in his Saiirycall Dialogue (1615, sig. 
13 h) deprecates “the curl’d wome tresses of dead borrowed haire.'" 

13-14 And him . . . was of yore] a variation on the concluding couplet 
of Sonnet Ixvii. 

LXix, 2-3 the thought of hearts . . . tongues^ the voice of soid8\ Twice in 

[ 64 ] 


Uttering bare truth, even so as foes commend. 

Thy outward thus with outward praise is crown’d; 

But those same tongues, that give thee so thine own. 
In other accents do this praise confound 
By seeing farther than the eye hath shown. 

They look into the beauty of thy mind, 

And that, in guess, they measure by thy deeds; 

Then, churls, their thoughts, although their eyes were 

To thy fair flower add the rank smell of weeds : 

But why thy odour matcheth not thy show, 

The soil is this, that thou dost common grow. 


That thou art blamed shall not be thy defect. 

For slander’s mark was ever yet the fair; 

his early work, Venus and Adonis, 367, and TU, Andr , III, i, 82, 
Shakespeare gives the tongue a cognate designation* *‘the engine of 
(her) thoughts ” 

that diLe] Malone’s just correction of the original reading that end 
5 Thy oidward] Thy external shape. 

12 To thy fair flower ... of weeds] Cf xciv, 14, infra: “Lilies that fester 
STuell far worse than weeds, ” and note. 

14 soil] defect or blemish. The Cambridge editors’ correction of the 
original reading solye, which is altered to soyle in the “Poems” of 
1640 Malone read solve, i e, solution “Soil” as a verb is 
occasionally found in much the same sense as “solve” and might 
possibly, but not probably, be used here for “ solution or explanation ” 
LXX, 2 slander" s mark . . fair] Cf. Marlowe’s Hero and Leander, Sestiad 

I, 285-286: “Whose name is it, if she be false or not. So she be fair, 
but some vile tongues will blot ?” 

5 ** [ 65 ] 


The ornament of beauty is suspect, 

A crow that flies inJieaven’s sweetest air. 

So thou be good, slander doth but approve 
Thy worth the greater, being woo’d of time ; 

For canker vice the sweetest buds doth love. 

And thou present’ st a pure unstained prime. 

Thou hast pass’d by the ambush of young days, 
Either not assail’d, or victor being charged; 

Yet this thy praise cannot be so thy praise. 

To tie up envy evermore enlarged: 

If some suspect of ill mask’d not thy show. 

Then thou alone kingdoms of hearts shouldst owe. 


No longer mourn for me when I am dead 
Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell 
Give warning to the world that I am fled 
From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell : 

Nay, if you read this line, remember not 
The hand that writ it ; for I love you so. 

That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot, 

If thinking on me then should make you woe. 

8 mspec£[ suspicion; so line 13, injra. 

6 being woo*d of time] being wooed by the temptations either of the 

season of youth or of the present age. 

7 For canker vice . . . doth love] So Venus and Adonis, 656: “This can- 

ker that eats up Love’s tender spring and Two Gent., I, i, 42-44: 
“Yet writers say, as in the sweetest bud, The eating canker dwells, 
so eating love Inhabits in the finest wits of all.” Cf. xxxv, 4, supra: 
“Loathsome cancer lives in sweetest bud.’’ 

LXXI, 2 surly sullen beS] Cf. ^ Hen. IV, I, i, 102; “a sullen hell . . . 
tolling a departed friend.” 

[ 66 ] 


O, if, I say, you look upon this verse 
When I perhaps corupounded am tvith clay. 

Do not so much as my poor name rehearse. 

But let your love even with my life decay ; 

Lest the wise world should look into your moan, 
.And mock you with me after I am gone. 


O, lest the world should task you to recite 
What merit lived in me, that you should love 
After my death, dear love, forget me quite. 

For you in me can nothing worthy prove; 

Unless you would devise some virtuous lie. 

To do more for me than mine own desert. 

And hang more praise upon deceased I 
Than niggard truth would willingly impart: 

O, lest your true love may seem false in this. 

That you for love speak well of me untrue, 

My name be buried where my body is. 

And live no more to shame nor me nor you. 

For I am shamed by that which I bring forth. 
And so should you, to love things nothing worth. 

10 compounded . . . with clay] Cf ^ Hen. IV, IV, v, 116* ** compound 
me with forgotten dust.** 

LXXn, 5 some virtuous he] Webster in the Duchess of Malfi, III, ii, 219, 
assigns to Tasso the familiar phrase “inagnanima menzogna’" 
(Qierusalemme Liherata, Bk. II, Canto 22) which Fairfax translates 
“a noble lie.” Tasso’s phrase, which became proverbial, is related 
to the yjgj'vatoF i^evSos of Plato and the “splendide mendax’ of Horace. 

[ 67 ] 



That time of year thou mayst in me behold 
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang 
Upon those boughs v/hich shake against the cold. 

Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang/ 

In me thou see’st the twilight of such day 
As after sunset fadeth in the west; 

Which by and by black night doth take away, 

Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest. 

In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire. 

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie. 

As the death-bed whereon it must expire, 

Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by. 

This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more 

To love that well which thou must leave ere long. 

LXXIII, 1-3 That time of year . . . the cold] See note on xxii, 1, jwpm. The 
same figure of a tree stript bare is applied to old age in Cymb.y III, iii, 
60-64, and Tim, of Ath,, IV, iii, 263 seq, Cf. Mach , V, iii, 22-23 : 
“my way of life Is fallen into the sear, the yellow leaf ” 

7 Which . . . take away] Cf. Two Gent , I, iii, 85-87* “day Which now 

shows all the beauty of the sun And by and by a cloud takes all away.’* 

8 Death’s second self] Cf. Daniers Delia, Sonnet xlix, which describes 

“ sleep “ as “son of the sable night,” and “brother to death.” 
Homer and Hesiod both call sleep the “ brother of death.” The 
phrase is used by Ronsard and De Baif. Daniel and other Eliza- 
bethan poets were well acquainted with Desportes* apostrophes of 
sleep; see Amours d’Hippolyte, Ixxv, 12: “O frere de la mort”; 
and Prihe an Sommeil (in Diane, bk. i) : “ Fils de la Nuict et de la 



But be contented : when that fell arrest - 
Without all bail shall carry me away, 

My life hath in this line some interest, 

Whioh for memorial still with thee shall stay. 

When thou reviewest this, thou dost review 
The very part was consecrate to thee ; 

The earth can have but earth, which is his due; 

My spirit is thine, the better part of me : 

So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life. 

The prey of worms, my body being dead; 

The coward conquest of a wretch’s knife. 

Too base of thee to be remembered. 

The worth of that is that which it contains. 

And that is this, and this with thee remains. 


So are you to my thoughts as food to life. 

Or as sweet-season’d showers are to the ground; 

LXXIV, 1-2 jell arrest . . . away] Cf Hamlet, V, ii, 328-329. “this jell 
sergeant death Is strid in his arrest ” “Arrest without all [z e , any] 
bail*’ is the legal term for summary arrest 
8 the better fart oj me] See xxxix, 2, sufra 

11 a wretch's knije] another conventional reference to the destroying ac- 
tivity of the wretch Time Cf Ixiii, 10 “confounding age’s cruel 
knije," and c, 14, “[time’s] crooked krnje" Time Ls denounced as 
“this bloody tyrant” xvi, 2 

13-14 The worth oj that . . remains] The worth of the body lies in the 
soul which it holds, and this verse which enshrines my soul remains 
with thee. Cf xxxix, 13-14. 

LXXV This sohnet was omitted from Shakespeare’s “Poems” of 1640 

[ 69 ] 


And for the peace of you I hold such strife 
As ’twixt a miser and his wealth is found; 

Now proud as an enjoyer, and anon 
Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure; 

Now counting best to be with you alone, 

Then better’d that the world may see my pleasure: 
Sometime all full with feasting on your sight, 

And by and by clean starved for a look; 

Possessing or pursuing no delight. 

Save what is had or must from you be took. 

Thus do I pine and surfeit day by day. 

Or gluttoning on all, or all away. 


Why is my verse so barren of new pride. 

So far from variation or quick change ? 

Why with the time do I not glance aside 
To new-found methods and to compounds strange? 
Why write I still all one, ever the same, 

3 for the 'peace of you] in order to enjoy the peace which your love 

10 starved for a look] Cf. xlvii, 3, supra: ‘‘famish’d for a look,” and note. 

13 jyi'ne and surfed] Cf. Venus and Adonis, 602: surfeit by the eye and 

pine the maw.” 

14 Or gluttoning . . aU a'way] Either I have every opportunity of 

gluttoning or all food is inaccessible. 

LXXVI This sonnet was omitted from Shakespeare’s “Poems” of 1640. 
3-4 Why 'With the time . . . strange] Cf Sidney’s Astrophd and Stella, 
Sonnet iii: “Let dainty wits cry on the Sisters nine . . . Ennobling 
'new-found tropes with problems old. Or with strange similes enrich 
each line.” Cf. for like comment by Shakespeare on contemporary 
sonneteers’ extravagances xxi and xxxviii 10, supra, and cxxx, infra. 

[ 70 ] 


And keep invention in a noted weed, 

That every word doth almost tell n^ name, 

Showing their birth and where they did proceed ? 

O, know, sweet love, I always write of you. 

And you and love are still my argument; lo 

So all my best is dressing old words new. 

Spending again what is already spent : 

For as the sun is daily new and old. 

So is my love still telling what is told. 


Thy glass will show thee how thy beauties wear. 

Thy dial how thy precious minutes waste; 

The vacant leaves thy mind’s imprint will bear. 

And of this book this learning mayst thou taste. 

The wrinkles which thy glass will truly show 
Of mouthed graves will give thee memory; 

6 in a noted weed] in a familiar garb; in the conventional shape. 

9-10 O, know, sweet love . . . still my argument] Cf. Sidney’s Astrophel 
and Stella, Sonnet xc: “For nothing from my will or wit doth flow 
Since all my words thy beauty doth indite.” For “argument” [i. c , 
theme] cf. xxxviii, 3 and Ixxix, 5. 

LXXVII, 3 The vacant leaves . . . will hear] The sonnet possibly accom- 
panied the gift of a memorandum book Cf line 10, infra: “these 
waste blanks,” and cxxii, 1, infra. The friend is bidden record his 
sentiments on the blank paper; perusal of his notes hereafter will 
tell him of the change or progress of his feelings. 

4 this learning] sc. of the progress of Time’s decay 

6 mouthed graves] gaping or yawning graves Cf 1 Hen. IV, I, in, 
97: inoutlied wounds”, Venus and Adonis, 7i77* “a swallowing 
grave”; and Hamlet, III, li, ,379. “ churclivards yawn ” 

[ 71 ] 


Thou by tby dial’s shady stealth mayst know 
Time’s thievish progress to eternity. 

Look, what thy memory cannot contain 
Commit to these waste blanks, and thou shalt find 
Those children nursed, deliver’d from thy brain. 

To take a new acquaintance of thy mind. 

These offices, so oft as thou wilt look, 

Shall profit thee and much enrich thy book. 


So oft have I invoked thee for my Muse 
And found such fair assistance in my verse 
As every alien pen hath got my use 
And under thee their poesy disperse. 

7 thy diaV 8 shady steoUh] Cf. civ, 9-10, in/m: “Ah! yet doth beauty, like 
a dial-hand deals'' etc. 

10 blanks^ Theobald’s admirable emendation of the original blacks. 
LXXVIII, 3-4 every alien pen . . . disperse^ The poet begins to complain 
ftat his friend’s patronage is sought by other poets. This theme 
is continued for the most part to the close of Sonnet Ixxxvi In Sonnet 
Ixxxii the poet refers to the extravagant eulogy of the “ dedicated words 
which writers use” in addressing his friend. There seems small 
doubt that Shakespeare has in mind the dedicatory sonnets and ad- 
dresses inscribed in 1594 and succeeding years to his own patron, the 
Earl of Southampton, who was in Nashe’s phrase “a dear lover and 
cherisher” of poets. Among the earl’s poetic eulogists were, besides 
Nashe, Bamabe Barnes, Gervase Markham, John Florio, Samuel 
Daniel, John Davies, George Chapman, and many others. AU these 
panegyrists of Southampton exhausted in his honour the vocabulary 
of praise, mainly in sonnets, and one or other of them is doubtless 
referred to in these sonnets of Shakespeare, though there is room for 
doubt as to the precise individuality of Shakespeare’s chief rival 
3 got my use] acquired my habit (of writing poems to you). 

[ 72 ] 


Thine eyes, that taught the dumb on high to sing 
A.nd heavy ignorance aloft to fly, » 

Have added feathers to the learned’s Yfing 
And given grace a double majesty. 

Yet be most proud of that which I compile, 
Whose influence is thine and born of thee : 

In others’ works thou dost but mend the style. 
And arts with thy sweet graces graced be; 

But thou art all my art, and dost advance 
As high as learning my rude ignorance. 


Whilst I alone did call upon thy aid, 

My verse alone had all thy gentle grace; 

But now my gracious numbers are decay’d. 

And my sick Muse doth give another place. 

I grant, sweet love, thy lovely argument 
Deserves the travail of a worthier pen; 

Yet what of thee thy poet doth invent 

5-6 Thine eyes . . . aloft to fiij\ A reference to the poet himself. Cf line 
14. infra: “my rude ignorance “ For similar imagery cf. Spenser’s 
sonnet to the Earl of Essex {Faene Quecncy 1590) . “My Muse whose 
f ether 8 nothing flitt. Doe yet but flagg and lowly leanie to fiy. 
With holder wing shall dare aloft to sty [e e., to find abode].” See also 
Ovid’s Metam , xv (Golding’s transl , 1612 ed , p 185 a): “I minde 
. . up among the starres to stye . . and m the cloudes to flye ’’ 

7-8 IIa):e added feathers . . . double majesty] A somewhat inflated com- 
pliment to the rival poet, whom the patron has honoured with his 

9 ccmpile] compose, write. Cf Ixxxv, 2, supra 

LXXIX, 5 thy lovely argument] the theme of thy loveliness; cf. xxxviii, 8, 


[ 73 ] 


He robs thee of, and pays it thee again. 

He lends thee virtue^ and he stole that word 

From thy behaviour; beauty doth he give, lo 

And found it in thy cheek ; he can afford 

No praise to thee but what in thee doth live. 

Then thank him not for that which he doth s&y, 
Since what he owes thee thou thyself dost pay. 


O, how I faint when I of you do write, 

Knowing a better spirit doth use your name, 

And in the praise thereof spends all his might, 

To make me tongue-tied, speaking of your fame ! 

But since your worth, wide as the ocean is. 

The humble as the proudest sail doth bear, 

My saucy bark, inferior far to his, 

On your broad main doth wilfully appear. 

Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat, 

Wliilst he upon your soundless deep doth ride; lo 

Or, being wreck’d, I am a worthless boat, 

He of tall building and of goodly pride: 

Then if he thrive and I be cast away. 

The worst was this; my love was my decay. 

LXXX, 2 a better spirit] a rival poet panegyrising the object of Shakes- 
peare's addresses Cf cxliv, 3-4. “The better angel . . . The 
worser spirit” and note 
4 tongue-tied] See Ixxxv, 1, and note. 

7 My saucy bark] The image is frequent in the sonneteers. Cf. Barnes’ 
Parthenophil, xci : “My fancy’s ship . . . my thought’s swift pinnace,” 
and Lodge’s Fhilhs, xi: “My frail and earthly bark, . . . my 
brittle boat ” The nautical figure is pursued, Ixxxvi, 1-2, infra. 

13 cast away] wrecked , a common usage. 

[ 74 ] 



Or I shall live your epitaph to make. 

Or you survive when I in earth am rotten ; 

From hence your memory death cannot take, 

Although in me each part will be forgotten. 

Your name from hence immortal life shall have, 
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die: 

The earth can yield me but a common grave, 

When you entombed in men’s eyes shall lie. 

Your monument shall be my gentle verse. 

Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read; 

And tongues to be your being shall rehearse. 

When all the breathers of this world are dead; 

You still shall live — such virtue hath my pen — 
Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths 
of men. 


I grant thou wert not married to my Muse, 

And therefore mayst without attaint o’erlook 
The dedicated words which writers use 
Of their, fair subject, blessing every book. 

LXXXI, 9 Your monument . . . versed Cf Daniel’s DeHuy xxxvii, 9: “This 
[ 5 c. my verse] shall remain thy lasting monument ” 

12 breathers] Cf. As you like li. III, ii, 263: “I will chide no hreaiher 
in the world ” 

14 in the mouths of meri] Cf. the Latin phrase (fiom Ennius) : “ Volito vivu* 
per ora virum,” to which ShakCvSpeare had already made allusion in 
Tit. Andr , I, i, 389-390. See note there 
LXXXII, 2 attaint] reproach, disgrace, impeachment 
3-4 The dedicated words . . blessing every hool^ See note on Ixxviii, 3-4, 
supra. Cf. Nashe’s The Unfortunate Traveller or Adventures of 
Jack Wjjfton (1594), Dedication to Southampton: “Incomprehensible 

[ 76 ] 



Thou art as fair in knowledge as in hue, 

Finding thy worth a^imit past my praise; 

And therefore art enforced to seek anew 
Some fresher stamp of the time-bettering days. 

And do so, love; yet when they have devised 
What strained touches rhetoric can lend, 

Thou truly fair wert truly sympathized 
In true plain words by thy true-telling friend; 

And their gross painting might be better used 
Where cheeks need blood; in thee it is abused. 


1 never saw that you did painting need. 

And therefore to your fair no painting set; 

is the height of your spirit both in heroical resolution and matters of 
conceit. Vnrepriuebly perisheth that booke whatsoeuer to wast 
paper, which on the diamond rocke of your judgement disasterly 
chanceth to be shipwrackt.’* Elsewhere Nashe calls Southampton 
the matchless image of honour and magnificent rewarder of vertue, 
Jove’s eagle-borne Ganimede For other ‘^strange touches” of 
“ rhetoric devised ” in Southampton’s honour, see Lee’s L%je of 
SJiakespeare, Appendix IV. 

8 time-beUering days] Cf xxxii, 10 , supra: “ the bettering of the 
11 truly sympathized] described with perfect fidelity. So Lucreccy 1113, 
and L, L L y III, i, 46 

13-14 better used . . . it is abused] Qi.L.L Z., II, iii, 225-226, where “better 
used” again rhymes with “’t is abused”; see, too, cxxxiv, 10-12. 
Lxxxiii, 1-2 painting . , . painting] The word and thought continues 
the reference to “gross painting,” i. e , “extravagant compliment,” 
in Ixxxii, 13. Constable frequently uses the phrase paint in verse” 
for “describe in poetry.” Cf. DianUy Decade II, Sonnet i, and Decade 
IV, Sonnet i (ed. Hazlitt, p 15), where the correct reading of line 2 
is “In vain my wit doth paint in verse my woe ” 

2 fair] beauty Cf. xvi, 11, Ixviii, 3, supra, and Com. of Errors, II, i, 98. 

[ 76 ] 


I found, or thought I found, you did exceed 
The barren tender of a poet’s deb*; 

And therefore have I slept in your report. 

That you yourself, being extant, well might show 
How far a modern quill doth come too short. 

Speaking of worth, what worth in you doth grow. 

This silence for my sin you did impute. 

Which shall be most my glory, being dumb; 

For I impair not beauty being mute, 

When others would give life and bring a tomb. 

There lives more life in one of your fair eyes 
Than both your poets can in praise devise. 


Who is it that says most ? which can say more 
Than this rich praise, that you alone are you ? 

In whose confine immured is the store 
Which should example where your equal grew. 

5 slept in your report] abstained from making report or eulogy of you, 

7 modem] ordinary, commonplace. 

12 a toTub] Cf. xvii, 3 : “it [my verse] is but as a tomb Which hides your life 
14 both your poets] apparently Shakespeare and the other poet, who has 
abandoned himself to reckless panegyric of their common patron 
Of Southampton’s poetic proteges, Barnes makes the most marked 
reference to the noble patron’s “fair eyes”, see his sonnet (dedicatory 
to Parthenophil, 1593) . “gracious (i e , lovely) eyes. Those heavenly 
lamps which give the Muses light. Which give and take in course that 
holy fire.” 

ijcxxrv, 3-4 the store . . . equal greu^ the treasury which should provide 
copies or examples of yourself of worth equal to the original The 
idea is, as in Sonnets i-xvii, drawn from the peculiar obligation of 
begetting heirs imposed on men of exceptional charm For “store’ 
cf. xiv, 12, supra. 


[ 77 ] 


Lean penury within that pen doth dwell 
That to his subject lends not some smalt glory ; 

But he that writes of you, if he can tell 
That you are you, so dignifies his story. 

Let him but copy what in you is writ. 

Not making worse what nature made so clear, , 
And such a counterpart shall fame his wit. 

Making his style admired every where. 

You to your beauteous blessings add a curse, 
Being fond on praise, which makes your praises 


My tongue-tied Muse in manners holds her still. 

While comments of your praise, richly compiled, 

5-6 Lean penury . small glory] The pen or book lends some glory to 
its subject For the converse sentiment that the glory of the subject 
communicates itself to the pen or book, cf Rom. and Jul , in, 92- 
93: “That book in many s eyes doth share the glory That in gold 
clasps locks in the golden story ” See, too, ciii, 1-2, infra. 

11 fame] confer fame on. The word is rarely found as a verb, so “fa- 
moused (xxv, 9) is used adjectivally. 

14 Being fond . . . praises worse] Being fond of such panegjric as debases 
what is praiseworthy in you instead of exalting it. 

LXXXV, 1 My tongue-tied Muse] The numbing effect of a patron’s eminent 
virtues on a modest poet is a common conceit among Elizabethan 
poets. Cf. Campion to Lord Walden whose “admired virtues” 
“Bred such despairing to my daunted muse That it could scarcely 
utter naked truth.” “In manners holds her still” means “keeps 
a respectful silence.” Cf. xxxix, 1. 

2 comments . . . compiled] eulogies composed or described in fine 
language. Cf. Ixxviii, 9, supra. Barnfield in his Cassandra (1595) 
writes of his heroine’s lover that “his tongue compiles her praise.^' 

[ 78 ] 



Reserve their character with golden quill, 

And precious phrase by all the Muses filed. 

I think good thoughts, whilst other write good words. 
And, like unletter’d clerk, still cry “Amen” 

To every hymn that able spirit affords. 

In .polish’d form of well refined pen. 

Hearing you praised, I say “’T is so, ’t is true,” 

And to the most of praise add something more ; 

But that is in my thought, whose love to you. 
Though words come hindmost, holds his rank before. 
Then others for the breath of words respect, 

Me for my dumb thoughts, speaking in effect, 



Was it the proud full sail of his great verse. 

Bound for the prize of all too precious you. 

That did my ripe thoughts in my brain inhearse. 
Making their tomb the womb wherein they grew ? 

8 Reserve . . . quiU] Preserve or perpetuate the handwriting by execut- 
ing it with a golden quill For “reserve” cf. xxxii, 7, supra. Re- 
serve them for my love ” 

4 filed] polished, refined. Bamfield in his Cassandra uses this epithet 
(“her filed tongue”) as here in near association with “compiled” 
(line 2). See L. L. L , V, i, 9. “his tongue filed."' 

jLXXXvi A compliment to the rival poet, and the main argument in favour 
of his identification with George Chapman; but Chapman's poetic 
style, though very involved, cannot be credited with exceptional dig- 
nity. Shakespeare’s words will not bear too literal an interpretation. 

4 Making their tomb . . . grew] Cf. Rom and Jvl , II, Hi, 9-10* “The 
earth that ’s nature’s mother, is her tomb; What is her burying grave, 
that is her womb." 


Was it his spirit, thy spirits taught to write 
Above a mortal pitch, that struck me dead ? 

No, neither he, nor his compeers by night 
Giving him aid, my verse astonished. 

He, nor that affable familiar ghost 
Which nightly gulls him with intelligence. 

As victors, of my silence cannot boast; 

I was not sick of any fear from thence: 

But when your countenance fill’d up his line. 
Then lack’d I matter; that enfeebled mine. 


Farewell ! thou art too dear for my possessing. 
And like enough thou know’st thy estimate: 

7-10 his compeers . . . intelligence] The aid rendered poets by “nightly 
familiars” is noticed by Chapman in his poem, The Shadow of Night 
(1594). Nashe gives at the same date a more general description 
of the workings of “nightly familiars” in his prose tract The Terrors 
of the Night (1594). 

8 my verse astonished] stunned with terror or struck dumb my verse , cf . 
Ixxxv, 1. See Lucrece, 1730-1731: “Stone-still, astonishd . . . 
Stood Collatine ” 

Lxxxvii, 1 possessing] The present participle, which ends no less than 
ten lines of this sonnet, is frequently found in the same place in early 
Elizabethan sonnets. Cf Daniel, Sonnets after Astrophel, 1591, No 
xxiv, where eight lines end similarly, i r, “paining,” “crying,” 
“waining,” “trying,” “aspiring,” “desiring,” “mourning,” “burn- 
ing,” A like number of present participles end lines in Watson’s 
Teares of Fanae, xxviii; Constable and Barnes show similar predilec- 
tion for rhymes in “-ing.” 


[ 80 ] 


The charter oi thy worth gives thee releasing ; 

My bonds in thee are all determirfate. 

For how do I hold thee but by thy granting? 

And for that riches where is my deserving ? 

The cause of this fair gift in me is wanting. 

And so my patent back again is swerving. 

Thyself thou gavest, thy own worth then not knowing, 

Or me, to whom thou gavest it, else mistaking; 

So thy great gift, upon misprision growing. 

Comes home again, on better judgement making. 

Thus have I had thee, as a dream doth flatter. 

In sleep a king, but waking no such matter. 


When thou shalt be disposed to set me light. 

And place my merit in the eye of scorn, 

3-4 The charter ... all determinate] For like legal terminology see 
Barnes’ ParthenophU (1593), Sonnet xv “I shall resign Thy love’s 
large charter and thy bonds again ” Cf. Iviii, 9, supra, and cxxxiv, 
infra “Determinate” is a legal term for “ended ” or “expired ” 

6 riches] singular noun, like the French nchesse, i. e , wealth. The usage is 

8 my patent] my monopoly or privilege; so Daniel uses 
Sonnets after Astrophel, 1591, No xviii. 

11 upon misprision grooving] the outcome of error; so L L L., IV, iii, 
94, and Mids N Dr , III, ii, 90. 

13-14 as a dream doth flatter. In sleep a king] So Rom and Jul , V, i, 
1-9* “If I may trust the flattering truth of sleep . . I dreamt 
. . . That I . . . was an emperor** 

14 no such matter] nothing of the sort Cf Tw Night, III, i, 4-5 
“Viola Art thou a churchman? Clown No such matter, sir ” 

Lxxxviii, 1 to set me light] to underrate me, to despise me. Cf. Rich. II, 
I, lii, 293 • “ The man . . set^ it [t. e , sorrow] light * * 

6 [ 81 ] 



Upon thy side against myself I ’ll fight, 

And prove thee virtuous, though thou art forsworn. 
With mine own weakness being best acquainted. 
Upon thy part I can set down a story 
Of faults conceal’d, wherein I am attainted; 

That thou in losing me shalt win much glory : 

And I by this will be a gainer too; 

For bending all my loving thoughts on thee. 

The injuries that to myself I do. 

Doing thee vantage, double-vantage me. 

Such is my love, to thee I so belong, 

That for thy right myself will bear all wrong. 


Say that thou didst forsake me for some fault, 

And I will comment upon that offence: 

Speak of my lameness, and I straight will halt. 
Against thy reasons making no defence. 

Thou canst not, love, disgrace me half so ill. 

To set a form upon desired change. 

As I’ll myself disgrace; knowing thy will, 

I will acquaintance strangle and look strange; 

6 U'pon thy part] In support of your view of the case; so xlix, 12. Cf. 

Hamlk, III, i, 123 : “but yet I could accuse me of such things.” 
LXXXIX, 3 Speak of my lameness . . . haU] A figurative illustration. 
Cf. xxxvii, 3, supra. 

6-7 To set a form . . . disgrace^ As to set up a pretext, which I shall 
discredit, for the change or alienation you desire in me. 

8 strangle . . . put an end to, and assume a distant expression. 

Cf. Tw Night, V, i, 141; “Wrangle thy propriety ”, Com. of Errors, 
V, i, 295 . “Why look you strange on me ?” . 

[ 82 ] 


Be absent from thy walks ; and in my tongue 

Thy sweet beloved name no more’shall dwell, lo 

Lest I, too much profane, should do it wrong. 

And haply of our old acquaintance tell. 

For thee, against myself I’ll vow debate, 

JFor I must ne’er love him whom thou dost hate. 


Then hate me when thou wilt; if ever, now; 

Now, while the world is bent my deeds to cross. 

Join with the spite of fortune, make me bow, 

And do not drop in for an after-loss: 

Ah, do not, when my heart hath ’scaped this sorrow. 
Come in the rearward of a conquer’d woe; 

Give not a windy night a rainy morrow, 

To linger out a purposed overthrow. 

If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last, 

When other petty griefs have done their spite, lo 

But in the onset come: so shall I taste 
At first the very worst of fortune’s might; 

And other strains of woe, which now seem woe, 
Compared with loss of thee will not seem so. 

9 thy walks] thy haunts. 

13 against myself . . . debate] I ’ll declare war on myself . So xxxv, 11, xlix, 
11, and cxlix, 2 

xc, 6 in the rearward of] behind, at the end of. Cf . Much Ado, IV, i, 126 • 
“on the rearward of reproaches ’’ 

7 Give not . . . morrow] Shakespeare frequently refers to rain as the 
ordinary sequel of wind. Cf Lucrece, 1788-1790, and note there 
IS Mer strains of woe] Cf. Much Ado, V, i, 11-12 : “ Measure his woe the 
length an(t breadth of mine. And let it answer every strain for strain.” 

\ [ 88 ] 


c xci 

Some glory in their birth, some in their skill, 

Some in their wealth, some in their body’s force; 

Some in their garments, though new-fangled ill ; 

Some in their hawks and hounds, some in their horse; 
And every humour hath his adjunct pleasure. 

Wherein it finds a joy above the rest: 

But these particulars are not my measure; 

All these I better in one general best. 

Thy love is better than high birth to me. 

Richer than wealth, prouder than garments’ cost. 

Of more delight than hawks or horses be; 

And having thee, of all men’s pride I boast: 

Wretched in this alone, that thou mayst take 
All this away and me most wretched make. 


But do thy worst to steal thyself away. 

For term of life thou art assured mine; 

And life no longer than thy love will stay. 

For it depends upon that love of thine. 

Then need I not to fear the worst of wrongs. 

When in the least of them my life hath end. 

I see a better state to me belongs 

Than that which on thy humour doth depend : 

XCI, 10 Richer thanvieaUk . . . oosf] Cf. Cymb., Ill, iii, 23-24: "Richer 
than doing nothing for a bauble. Prouder than rustling in unpaid- 
for silk.” 


[ 84 ] 


Thou canst not vex me with inconstant mind, 

Since that my life on thy revolt doth lie. lo 

O, what a happy title do I find, 

Happy to have thy love, happy to die ! 

But what ’s so blessed-fair that fears no blot ? 

Thou mayst be false, and yet I know it not. 


So shall I live, supposing thou art true. 

Like a deceived husband; so love’s face 
May still seem love to me, though alter’d new; 

Thy looks with me, thy heart in other place : 

For there can live no hatred in thine eye, 

Therefore in that I cannot know thy change. 

In many’s looks the false heart’s history 

Is writ in moods and frowns and wrinkles strange. 

But heaven in thy creation did decree 

That in thy face sweet love should ever dwell ; lo 

Whate’er thy thoughts or thy heart’s workings be. 

Thy looks should nothing thence but sweetness tell. 

How like Eve’s apple doth thy beauty grow. 

If thy sweet virtue answer not thy show ! 

xcii, 10, Since that my life . . . doth lie] Seeing that any change in thy 
devotion will mean death to me. 

xcin, 7-8 In many's looks . . , wrinkles strange] Cf. Luereccy 1396* 
“The face of either ciphered cither’s heart,” and Macb.y I, iv, 
11-12: “There’s no art To find the mind’s construction in the 

14 show] external appearance. Cf. liv, 9, supra; “their virtue only is 
their ahmo,'* 

[ 85 ] 



They that have power to hurt and will do none, 

That do not do the thing they most do show, 

Who, moving others, are themselves as stone, 
Unmoved, cold and to temptation slow; „ 

They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces 
And husband nature’s riches from expense; 

They are the lords and owners of their faces. 

Others but stewards of their excellence. 

The summer’s flower is to the summer sweet. 

Though to itself it only live and die, 

But if that flower with base infection meet. 

The basest weed outbraves his dignity : 

For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds ; 
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds. 


How sweet and lovely dost thou make the shame 
Which, like a canker in the fragrant rose, 

Doth spot the beauty of thy budding name ! 

O, in what sweets dost thou thy sins inclose ! 

That tongue that tells the story of thy days. 

Making lascivious comments on thy sport, 

XCIV, 7 They are the lords . . jaces\ They are absolute masters of them- 
selves in all respects. Cf. iC. John, 1, i, 137 : Lord of thy presence.** 
10 to iisdf . . . die\ Cf. liv, 11, supra: “[Roses] Die to themselves.** 

14 Lilies . . . than weeds] Cf. Ixix, 12, supra This line appears in the 
tragedy of Edward III (before 1595), II, i, 451 ; see xxxiii, 2, supra, 
and cxlii, 6, infra, for other echoes of the same play, 
xcv, 2 like a canker] for the imagery see xxxv, 4, and hoc, ,7, supra. 

[ 86 ] 


Camiot dispraise but iu a kiud oi praise •, 

Naming thy name blesses an ill rep&rt. 

O, what a mansion have those vices got 
» Which for their habitation chose out thee, lo 

Where beauty’s veil doth cover every blot 
And all things turn to fair that eyes can see ! 

Take heed, dear heart, of this large privilege ; 

The hardest knife ill used doth lose his edge. 


Some say, thy fault is youth, some wantonness ; 

Some say, thy grace is youth and gentle sport; 

Both grace and faults are loved of more and less : 

Thou makest faults graces that to thee resort. 

As on the finger of a throned queen 
The basest jewel will be well esteem’d, 

So are those errors that in thee are seen 
To truths translated and for true things deem’d. 

How many lambs might the stern wolf betray. 

If like a lamb he could his looks translate! lo 

How many gazers mightst thou lead away. 

If thou wouldst use the strength of all thy state ! 

11 And all things .. see] Cf.xl, 13, supra; “Lascivious grace, in whom 

all ill well shows 

XCVI This sonnet was omitted from Shakespeare’s “Poems” of 1640 
3 oj more and less] by great and small. Cf. 1 Hen IV y IV, hi, 68 . “The 
more and less came in.” 

8 translated] transformed. So line 10, infra 

12 the strength of all thy state] a periphrasis for “ the full extent of tliy 

strength.” • 

[ 87 ] 


But do not so; I love thee in such sort, 

As thou being*mine, mine is thy good report. 


How like a winter hath my absence been 
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year ! 

What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen ! 

What old December’s bareness every where ! 

And yet this time removed was summer’s time; 

The teeming autumn, big with rich increase 
Bearing the wanton burthen of the prime, 

Like widowed wombs after their lords’ decease: 

Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me 
But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit ; 

For summer and his pleasures wait on thee, 

And, thou away, the very birds are mute; 

Or, if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer 
That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near. 


From you have I been absent in the spring, 

When proud-pied April, dress’d in all his trim, 

lS-14 Bid do not so . good report] This couplet is repeated at the end 
of Sonnet xxxvi. 

XCVII, 5 time removed] time of separation. 

6 The teeming autumn . . . increase] Cf. Mids, N. Dr., II, i, 112: “The 

chUding autumn.” 

7 prime] spring. So Lucrece, 832, 

XCVIII, 2 proud-pied April] Cf. Rom. and Jid., I, ii, 26-28: “Such com- 
fort as do lusty young men feel When well appareWd April, ” etc. ; 
TU. Andr., Ill, i, 18: “youthful April ” 

[ 88 ] 


Hath put a spirit oi youth in every thing, 

That heavy Saturn laugh’d and leap’d with him. 

Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell 
Oi dififerent flowers in odour and in hue. 

Could make me any summer’s story tell. 

Or irom their proud lap pluck them where they grew: 
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white. 

Nor praise the deep vermillion in the rose; 

They were but sweet, but figures of delight. 

Drawn after you, you pattern of all those. 

Yet seem’d it winter still, and, you away, 

As with your shadow I with these did play. 

4 laugh'd and leaped] -Cf. Merck of Ven,y I, i, 49: “to laugh and leap and 
say you are merry 

7 any summer* s story] any gay, pleasant story. Cf Cymb , III, iv, l^i-14: 

“If ’t be summer news Smile to’t before; if winterly, thou need’st But 
keep that countenance still.” 

8 their proud lap] Cf . Rich, II y V, ii, 47 : “ the green lap of the new 

come spring.” 

9-10 Nor did / . . . in the rose] Cf. Bamfield’s Affectionate Shepherd 
(I, iii); “His luory-white and Alabaster skin Is staind throughout 
with rare Vermillion red. . / . But as the Lillie and the blushing 
Rose, So white and red on him in order growes ” This is the only 
place where Shakespeare uses the word “vermilion ” It is not un- 
common in Elizabethan poetry. Cf. Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella^ 
cii, 5: ^'vermilion dyes,” and Daniel’s Rosamond (1592), line 846. 
“ red ” (of roses). It is constantly found in French and 
Italian poetry (vermeil and vermiglio) 

\\ hut sweety but figures of delight] only sweetness, only figures of delight. 
“Sweet” is again used for “sweetness,” xeix, 14, infra Cf , too, 
Constable’s Miscellaneous SonnetSy No. vii (c\ 1590, ed Hazlitt, 1859, 
p. 27):* “But all those beauties were but figures of thv praise ” 

[ 89 ] 





The forward violet thus did I chide: 

Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells, 
If not from my love’s breath ? The purple pride 
Which on thy soft cheek for complexion dwells ^ 

In my love’s veins thou hast too grossly dyed. 

The lily I condemned for thy hand. 

And buds of marjoram had stol’n thy hair; 

The roses fearfully on thorns did stand. 

One blushing shame, another white despair; 

XCIX, l-H The first line is metrically redundant, adding to the sonnet a 
fifteenth line. Many sonnets of fifteen lines appear in Barnes’ Par- 
tkenophil (1593), e g., xxxv, xxxvi, xxxviii, xxxix, xl, etc. For other 
irregularities of form in Shakespeare’s Sonnets cf . cxxvi and cxlv, infra, 
1, seq. The forward iriolet, etc ] The common conceit that the flowers take 
their colour and smell from the poet’s idol was probably sug- 
gested to Shakespeare by Constable’s adaptation of it {Diana (1594), 
Decade I, Sonnet ix). Ronsard {Amours, I, cxl) tells how from the 
flowers “du beau jardin de son printemps riant” (i. e , from his 
mistress) come all the sweet perfumes of the East. 

6 for thy hand] for stealing the whiteness of thy hand. 

7 buds of marjoram] Buds of marjoram are dark purple red ; the flowers 

are pink. Marjoram was best known as an ingredient of scent, and 
it is probably the perfume of this flower rather than its colour which 
the poet associates with his friend’s hair. On the other hand, dark au- 
burn hair might perhaps be poetically described as “marjoram 
coloured.” See Suckling’s Tragedy of Brennoralt, IV, i, 155: *'Hair 
[of a girl] curling and cover’d like buds of marjoram,'* where “cov- 
er’d” is probably a misprint for “color’d.” 

8-9 The roses fearfully . . . white despair] Cf Lucrece, 477-479: “The 
colour in thy face. That even for anger makes the lily pale. And the 
red rose blush at her own disgrace.” , 

[ 90 ] 


A third, nor red nor white, had stol’n of both, lo 

And to his robbery had annex’d tlly breath ; 

But, for his theft, in pride of all his growth 
A vengeful canker eat him up to death. 

More flowers I noted, yet I none could see 
But sweet or colour it had stol’n from thee. 

Where art thou. Muse, that thou forget’ st so long 
To speak of that which gives thee all thy might? 
Spend’st thou thy fury on some worthless song. 
Darkening thy power to lend base subjects light? 
Return, forgetful Muse, and straight redeem 
In gentle numbers time so idly spent; 

Sing to the ear that doth thy lays esteem 
And gives thy pen both skill and argument. 

Rise, resty Muse, my love’s sweet face survey, 

If Time have any wrinkle graven there; lo 

12 in pride of all his growth] in the glory of his prime 

13 A vengeful canker . death] Cf Rovi. and Jul.y II, iii, 30' “Full 

soon the canker death eaU up that plant and see xxxv, 4, and Ixx, 

7, supra. 

14-15 More flowers . . stoVn from thee] Cf. Constable’s Diana (Dec- 
ade I, Sonnet ix, 9-10). “In brief, all flowers from her their virtue 
take ; From her sweet breath their sweet smells do proceed ” 
c, 3 fury] poetic inspiration, a common usage Cf. xvii, 11, supra- “a 
poet’s rage,” and Mids. N, Dr., V, i, 12. “The poet’s eye, in a fine 
frenzy rolling.” 

8 And gives thy pen . . . argument] Cf. Ronsard, Amours, II, 12 “ma 

plume sin on vous ne S 9 ait autre sujet,'* etc ; for “argument” [i e, 
theme] see xxxviii, 3, and note. 

9 resty] slothful* torpid. 


[ 91 ] 


If any, be a satire to decay, 

And make Time’s s()oils despised every where. 

Give my love fame faster than Time wastes life; 
So thou prevent’st his scythe and crooked knife. 


O truant Muse, what shall be thy amends 
For thy neglect of truth in beauty dyed? 

Both truth and beauty on my love depends; 

So dost thou too, and therein dignified. 

Make answer. Muse : wilt thou not haply say, 

“ Truth needs no colour, with his colour fix’d ; 

Beauty no pencil, beauty’s truth to lay; 

But best is best, if never intermix’d?” 

Because he needs no praise, wilt thou be dumb ? 
Excuse not silence so, for ’t lies in thee 
To make him much outlive a gilded tomb 
And to be praised of ages yet to be. 

Then do thy office, Muse; I teach thee how 
To make him seem long hence as he shows now. 

11 satire] satirist, no uncommon usage. 

14 thou prevent st\ In this manner thou anticipates!. 

CI, 3 truth and beauty] The association of truth and beauty is similarly 
noticed in Sonnets xiv and liv, 1-2. So Phoenix and Turtle^ 62-64. 

6 with his colour f.x^d\ seeing that the colour or inherent disposition of 

my beloved is constant or unalterable. 

7 to lay] to lay on (as of painters’ colours), cf. Tw Night, I, v, 224- 

225: "‘red and white Nature’s . . hand laid on.” 

11 gilded tomb] So Iv, 1: gilded monuments”; cf Merch. of Ven., II, 
vii, 69: ** Gilded tombs do worms infold.” * 




My love is strengthen’d, though more weak in seeming ; 
I love not less, though less the show appear: 

That love is merchandized whose rich esteeming 
The owner’s tongue doth publish every where. 

Our love was new, and then but in the spring. 

When I was wont to greet it with my lays; 

As Philomel in summer’s front doth sing. 

And stops her pipe in growth of riper days : 

Not that the summer is less pleasant now 

Than when her mournful hymns did hush the night. 

But that wild music burthens every bough, 

And sweets grown common lose their dear delight. 
Therefore, like her, I sometime hold my tongue, 
Because I would not dull you with my song. 

CII, 3-4 That love is merchandized . . every where] Cf L L. L.^ II, i, 
15-16: “Beauty is bought by judgment of the eye, Not utter’d by 
base sale of chapmen’s tongues,” and xxi, 14, supra. 

7 in summer s front] Cf. Wint. Tale, IV, iv, 2-3 : “Flora Peering in ApnVs 

8-10 stops her pipe . . . hush the night] The nightingale is credited with 
singing only by night, for fear of competition with other birds, in 
Merch. of Ven., V, i, 104 seq.\ see, too, Lucrece, 1148. The bird is 
always feminine in Shakespeare, in view of her mythical descent from 
the outraged Philomela, wife of Tereus (see Lucrece, 1079 and 1 128, 
and Tit, Andr., II, ui,43, et passim). The Quarto here reads his 
pipe, for which is rightly substituted her pipe 

12 sweets grown common , , . dear delight] Cf. lii, 3 seq., supra, for a like 

[ 93 ] 


, cm 

Alack, what poverty my Muse brings forth, 

That having such a scope to show her pride. 

The argument, all bare, is of more worth 
Than when it hath my added praise beside ! 

O, blame me not, if I no more can write ! 

Look in your glass, and there appears a face 
That over-goes my blunt invention quite. 

Dulling my lines and doing me disgrace. 

Were it not sinful then, striving to mend. 

To mar the subject that before was well ? 

For to no other pass my verses tend 
Than of your graces and your gifts to tell ; 

And more, much more, than in my verse can sit. 
Your own glass shows you when you look in it. 


To me, fair friend, you never can be old. 

For as you were when first your eye I eyed. 

cm, 1 Alack, what 'poverty . , . forth] Cf. Ixxxiv, 5; “Lean penury 
within that pen doth dwell/* etc. 

3 The argument, all hare] Cf. xxvi, 5-7, where the poet fears “wit so poor 
as mine May make** his effort “seem bare"^ and “all naked.** For 
“argument** (t. e., theme), see xxxviii, 3. 

6~7 a face . . . invention quite] Cf. Othello, II, i, 61-63; “a maid . . 

that excels the quirks of blazoning pens.*’ 

9-10 driving to mend . . . was well] Cf K. John, IV, ii, 28-29, and Lear, 
I, iv, 347: Striving to better, oft we mar what's well." 

[ 94 ] 


Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold 
Have from the forests shook throe summers’ pride. 
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn’d 
In process of the seasons have I seen, 

Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn’d. 

Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green. 

Ah, yet doth beauty, like a dial-hand, 

Steal from his figure, and no pace perceived; 

So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand. 
Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceived: 

For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred; 

Ere you were born was beauty’s summer dead. 


Let not my love be call’d idolatry. 

Nor my beloved as an idol show, 

CIV, 3-7 Three winters cold . . . Junes hum*d] An intimation that the 
poet’s friendship was three years old. The period seems to have been 
more or less conventional among the sonneteers. Cf. Ronsard’s Son- 
nets pour Helhie^ I, xiv, which begins: “ Trois arts sont ja passez que 
ton oeil me tient pris,” and Daniel in Sonnets after Astrophel, 1591. 
No. xvii (of his love) : “That was with blood and three years" witness 
signed.” For “summer’s pride” (line 4) cf. Roin, and Jw/ , I, ii, 10 
** summers ... in their pnde/" 

ft-10 like a dial-hand^ Steal] Cf. Ivii, 7, supra: “thy dtal"s shady stealthy"" 
and Rich. Illy III, vii, 168: “the stealing hours of time ” 
cv, 1-2 idolatrjj . . . idol] “Idolatry” is only used five times elsewhere 
by Shakespeare. “Idolatrous” is used once in All "s Welly I, i, 91 
{idolatrous fancy). Tasso in Sonnet cxxvi {JVorkSyod. Solerti, n, p 201 ) 
likens his lady-loves to ""idoli"* (line 11) and his passion to “ingiusta 
idolatriu d^amore"* (line 14). Tasso also describes himself in relation 
with his beloved first patron, the Duke of Ferrara, as “almost an 
idolater"" (Tasso’s Opere, Pisa, 1831-1832, vol. xiii, p. 298). 

[ 95 ] 


Since all alike my songs and praises be 
To one, of one, still euch, and ever so. 

Kind is my love to-day, to-morrow kind. 

Still constant in a wondrous excellence ; 

Therefore my verse to constancy confined. 

One thing expressing, leaves out difference. 

“Fair, kind, and true,” is all my argument, 

“Fair, kind, and true,” varying to other words; 

And in this change is my invention spent. 

Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affords. 

“ Fair, kind, and true,” have often lived alone, 
Which three till now never kept seat in one. 


When in the chronicle of wasted time 
I see descriptions of the fairest wights. 

And beauty making beautiful old rhyme 
In praise of ladies dead and lovely knights. 

Then, in the blazon of sweet beauty’s best. 

Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow, 

I see their antique pen would have express’d 
Even such a beauty as you master now. 

9 ** Fair, kind, and true*'] “Wise, fair and true’* make up, according to 
Lorenzo, the threefold virtue of his ideal mistress Jessica (Merck, of 
Ven ,11, vi, 52-57). 

CVI, 5-6 in the blazon ... of brow] Cf. Tw. Night, 1, v, 276-277 : “Thy 
tongue, thy face, thy limbs, actions and spirit, Do give thee five-fold 
blazon.” “Blazon” is the technical description of the heraldic shield. 
7-8 I see .. . master now] Cf. Spenser’s sonnet to Lord Howard of 
EfiSngham (in Faerie Queene, 1590): “Make you ensample to the 
present age Of th* old Heroes whose famous offspring The aMique 
Poets wont so much to sing.” 

[ 96 ] 


So all their praises are but prophecies 

Of this our time, all you prefigurjng ; lo 

And, for they look’d but with divining eyes. 

They had not skill enough your worth to sing ; 

For we, which now behold these present days, 

Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise. 


Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul 
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come. 

Can yet the lease of my true love control. 

Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom. 

9--12 So all their praises . . . your worth to sing] Henry Constable in 
his Miscellaneous Sonnets (No. vii) written about 1590 (see Hazlitt’s 
ed., 1859, p. 27) — not in his Diana — anticipated these lines thus: 

“ Miracle of the world, I never will deny 
That former poets praise the beauty of their da}^; 

Bid all those heaidtes were hut figures oj thy 'praise^ 

And all those poets did of thee hut prophecy''’ 

Constable significantly headed this sonnet: “To his Mistrisse, upon 
occasion of a Petrarch he gave her, showing her the reason why the 
Italian commentators dissent so much in the exposition thereof.*' 

12 skill] Malone’s substitution for the Quarto Ml. 
evil, 1 the prophetic sout] Cf. Hamlet, I, v, 40, and note. 

4 Supposed . . , doom] Apparently an allusion to the doom or punish- 
ment of confinement or imprisonment awarded to Shakespeare s 
patron the Earl of Southampton, for complicity in tlie Earl of Essex’s 
rebellion of 1601, and to his restoration to liberty on the accession of 
James I in 1603 Samuel Daniel, John Davies of Hereford, and other 
poets celebrated Southampton’s enfranchisement in like terms. Cf. 
Lee’s Lije of Shakespeare, p. 152 

7 • [ 97 ] 


The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured, 

And the sad augurs, mock their own presage; 

Incertainties now crown themselves assured. 

And peace proclaims olives of endless age. 

Now with the drops of this most balmy time 

My love looks fresh, and Death to me subscribes, , 

Since, spite of him. I’ll live in this poor rhyme, 

While he insults o’er dull and speechless tribes: 

And thou in this shalt find thy monument. 

When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent 

5 The Tnortal . . . endured] Queen Elizabeth, whom Spenser, Raleigh, 
Bamfield, and other poets of the day habitually named Cynthia(t. e., 
the moon), died March 24, 1603. Poetic elegists invariably lamented 
her death in like phraseology; e, g , “Fair Cynthia's dead''; Luna's 
extinct " ; “Nought can echpse her light " ; “Her sun eclipsed did set.'' 

Q And the sad augurs mock their own presage] Anticipation of disorder 
on Queen Elizabeth’s death was general in London, but was belied 
by the event. Cf Manningham’s Diary (Camd. Soc. 147) ; “garboiles 
. . . were more feared than perceived . . . Noe tumult, noe 
contradiction, noe disorder in the city . . . God be thanked, our 
King has his right." So Daniel in his Panegyrick to James 1, 1603, 
st. xiii-xiv. 

8 And peace . . . endless ag^ James I, whose love of peace was notorious, 

was said to reach his throne “not with an olive branch in his hand, 
but with a whole forest of olives round about him, for he brought not 
peace to this kingdom alone ” (Gervase Markham, Honour in his Per- 
fection, 1624). 

9 this most balmy time] James I ascended the throne in a spring of rarely 

rivalled clemency — “this sweetest of all sweet springs.” Cf. Daniel’s 
Panegyrick^ st, xvii, and Davies' Microcosmos (1603, ed. Grosart, 
p. 15), pref. in honour of King James. 

10 subscribes] yields: a common usage. 

12 ^ insults o'er . . . tribes] he triumphs over the dead. 

14 tyrants' crests] Cf. Iv, 1 seq,^ supra. 

[ 98 ] 




What ’s in the brain, that ink may character. 

Which hath not figured to thee my true spirit ? 

What ’s new, to speak, what new to register, 

That may express my love, or thy dear merit ? 

Nothing, sweet boy ; but yet, like prayers divine, 

I must each day say o’er the very same; 

Counting no old thing old, thou mine, I thine, 

Even as when first I hallowed thy fair name. 

So that eternal love in love’s fresh case 

Weighs not the dust and injury of age, lo 

Nor gives to necessary wrinkles place. 

But makes antiquity for aye his page; 

Finding the first conceit of love there bred, 

Where time and outward form would show it dead. 


O, never say that I was false of heart. 

Though absence seem’d my flame to qualify. 

As easy might I from myself depart 

CVIII, S new to register^ Malone's correction of the Quarto reading now 
to register, 

9 in love's fresh case] in the case of love which is ever fresh or young. 

10 Weighs not] Cf. L, L. Z., V, ii, 27: “You weigh me not9 — Q, that 's 

you care not for me.” 

14 Where time . . . show it dead] In a person whose age and outward 
appearance would seem to show that the sentiment of love was dead 
in him. 

CIX, 2 qiLolify] diminish, allay Cf. Luorece, 424, and note. 

[ 99 ] 


As from my soul, which in thy breast doth lie: 

That is my home of love : if I have ranged, 

Like him that travels, 1 return again; 

Just to the time, not with the time exchanged. 

So that myself bring water for my stain. 

Never believe, though in my nature reign’d 

All frailties that besiege all kinds of blood. 

That it could so preposterously be stain’d, 

To leave for nothing all thy sum of good; 

For nothing this wide universe I call, 

Save thou, my rose; in it thou art my all. 


Alas, ’t is true I have gone here and there, 

And made myself a motley to the view, 

4 from my soul . . doth lie] Cf, Ve7ius and Adonis, 580-582: “her 
[Venus’s] heart . . He [Adonis] carries thence incaged in his breast” 
and L L L., V, ii, 804: “my heart is in thy breast” Cf. Rich. Ill, 
I, ii, 204 

5-6 That is my home . . . return again] Cf. Mids. N Dr., Ill, ii, 171- 
172: “My heart to her but as guest-wise sojourn'd. And now to Helen 
is it home return'd.” 

7-8 Just to the time . . . stain] Just to the minute, quite punctually, 
not altered by the interval of absence, so that in my own person I make 
reparation for any offence of absence. 

10 dll kinds of blood] all sorts of temperaments. 

14 Save thou] Apart from thee. 

cx, 2 a motley] a fool who habitually wore a patchwork or motley coat. 
The poet is imagined by commentators to reproach himself obscurely 
here with the folly of his profession of actor (cf. xxiii, 1, supra). But 
Spenser (Amordti, liv) identifies himself, wholly in a figurative sense, 
with a player whose varied impersonations his mistress watches, like a 
spectator in a theatre. 

[ 100 ] 


Gored mine own thouglits, sold cheap what is most dear, 
Made old offences of affections new; 

Most true it is that I have look’d on truth 
Askance and strangely : but, by all above. 

These blenches gave my heart another youth. 

And worse essays proved thee my best of love. 

Now all is done, have what shall have no end: 

Mine appetite I never more will grind 
On newer proof, to try an older friend, 

A god in love, to whom I am confined. 

Then give me welcome, next my heaven the best, 
Even to thy pure and most most loving breast. 


O, for my sake do you with Fortune chide. 

The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds. 

That did not better for my life provide 

Than public means which public manners breeds. 

3 Oored\ Outraged, disgraced, Cf. Harrdett V, ii, 242 : “To keep my name 


4 Made old .. . new] Sinned against old friendships by forming new ones 

There is some inversion of phraseology here but the general sense is 

6 strangely] distantly. Cf. xlix, 5, and Ixxix, 7, supra. 

7 blenches] aberrations, flinchings from virtue. The substantive is rare 

Cf. for the verb Hamlet^ II, ii, 593. “if he but blench ” 

8 worse essays] trials of more disreputable conduct. 

9 have what shaU have no end] Cf. Shakespeare’s dedication of Lucrece to 

Lord Southampton: “the love I dedicate to your lordship is without 
end."' See Sonnet xxvi, supra. 

CXI, 4 Than public means , . . breeds] The phrase is commonly assumed 
to implj scorn of the poet’s profession of actor. 

[ 101 ] 



Thence comes it that my name receives a brand, 

And almost thence iny nature is subdued 
To what it works in, like the dyer’s hand : 

Pity me then and wish I were renew’d ; 

Whilst, like a willing patient, I will drink 

Potions of eisel ’gainst my strong infection; lo 

No bitterness that I will bitter think. 

Nor double penance, to correct correction. 

Pity me then, dear friend, and 1 assure ye 
Even that your pity is enough to cure me. 


Your love and pity doth the impression fill 
Which vulgar scandal stamp’d upon my brow; 

For what care I who calls me well or ill, 

So you o’er-green my bad, my good allow ? 

You are my all the world, and I must strive 
To know my shames and praises from your tongue; 
None else to me, nor I to none alive, 

That my steel’d sense or changes right or wrong. 

5 a brand] a stigma of disgrace. 

10 eisel] vinegar, which was held to be a sovereign protection against in- 
fection of the plague. Cf. Hamlet, V, i, 270, and note. 

CXII, 4 o'er-green my had . . , allow] throw a friendly veil over my faults 
and approve my virtues ** 0*er-green,*^ a rare word, probably alludes 
to the covering of rough ground with greensward. 

7-8 None else . . . v^rong] Nobody else is anything to me nor I anything 
to anybody else who is likely to endow my hardened sensibility 
or my vacillations of temper with any sense of right or wrong. 
Nobody else can influence me for good or ill. 

[ 108 ] 


In so profound abysm I throw all care 

Of others’ voices, that my adder’s sense w 

To critic and to flatterer stopped are. 

Mark how with my neglect I do dispense : 

You are so strongly in my purpose bred 
.That all the world besides methinks are dead. 


Since I left you mine eye is in my mind, 

And that which governs me to go about 
Doth part his function and is partly blind, 

Seems seeing, but effectually is out; 

For it no form delivers to the heart 

Of bird, of flower, or shape, which it doth latch : 

10 my adder's sense} my deaf ears Cf. Ttoil. and Cress.^ II, ii, 172: 

“ears more deaf than adders ” 

11 critic} censurer; always thus in Shakespeare 

12 with my neglect I do dispense] I excuse my neglect “Dispense with^* 

(i. e y obtain dispensation for); thrice so in Lucrece (1070, 1279, 

13 in my purpose bred] rooted in my thought. 

14 besides methinks are dead] Thus Malone The Quarto reads, besides 

methinkes y* are deady' which is unintelligible, 
cxni) 1 mine eye is in my mind] Cf. Lucrece, 1426: “the eye of mind," 
and Hamlet, I, ii, 185: “In my mind's eye" 

3 part] depart from, forsake : no uncommon usage. 

4 is ov£] is out of the right path ; strays into error. Cf . X X. X , IV, i. 126 : 

“your hand is out" and Tw. Night, II, lii, 173. “I am a foul way 

5-6 For it no form ... it doth latch] Cf. liii, supra. These lines expand 
Petrarch's beautiful Canzone xv, headed “In ogni cosa trova li Poeta 
rimagine di Laura,” where the poet detects his mistress’s form in every 

[ 103 ] 


Of his quick objects hath the mind no part, 

Nor his own vision holds what it doth catch; 

For if it see the rudest or gentlest sight, 

The most sweet favour or deformed’st creature. 

The mountain or the sea, the day or night, 

The crow or dove, it shapes them to your feature : 
Incapable of more, replete with you. 

My most true mind thus maketh mine untrue. 


Or whether doth my mind, being crown’d with you. 
Drink up the monarch’s plague, this flattery ? 

Or whether shall I say, mine eye saith true. 

And that your love taught it this alchemy, 

To make of monsters and things indigest 

aspect of nature. Latch ” means “catch, “lay hold of.“ Cf Mids. 
N. Dr , III, ii, 36 (“But hast thou yet latch'd the Athenian s eyes ? “) 
and Mach,, IV, iii, 195 
10 favour] face, countenance. 

14 mine urdrue] Thus the original Quarto. The words are difficult. 
“Untrue” may possibly be used like a noun for “untruth,” “ decep- 
tion.” “Fair” is repeatedly, and “true” and “false ” are occasionally, 
used as substantives. Cf Meas for Meas., 11, [\, 170 : “my false o*er- 
weighs your true.” Modem editors usually substitute mine eye untrue, 
which seems a permissible change. Cf. cxiv, 3 : ^'mine eye saith trvs," 
and civ, 12: eye may be deceived.” For the like ambiguity 

in similiar context between “ mine ” and “ mine eye ” see Two 
Gent,, II, iv, 192. 

CXIV, 4-6 love taught it this alchemy . . . sweet self resemble] Cf. Mids. 
N, Dr., I, i, 232-233: “Things base and vile holding no quantity 
Love can transpose to form and dignity.” 

5 indigest] unformed, shapeless. 

[ 104 ] 


Such cherubims as your sweet self resemble, 

Creating every bad a perfect best, » 

As fast as objects to his beams assemble ? 

O, ’t is the first ; ’t is flattery in my seeing, 

And my great mind most kingly drinks it up : 

Mine eye well knows what with his gust is ’greeing, 
And to his palate doth prepare the cup : 

If it be poison’d, ’t is the lesser sin 
That mine eye loves it and doth first begin. 


Those lines that I before have writ do lie. 

Even those that said I could not love you dearer: 

Yet then my judgement knew no reason why 
My most full flame should afterwards burn clearer. 
But reckoning Time, whose million’d accidents 
Creep in ’twixt vows, and change decrees of kings, 

P Tan sacred beauty, blunt the sharp’st intents, 

Divert strong minds to the course of altering things; 

9 O, 'tis the first; His flattery in my seeing] Cf. Tuh Night, I, v, 293; 
Mine eye too great a fiaiterer for my mind ” The poet has offered two 
alternative explanations of his finding his friend’s fair shape in every 
aspect of nature and accepts “ the first ” solution that his eye is 
flattering his mind. He rejects the second theory that nature is 
genuinely beautified by love’s alchemy. 

11 gust] its (i. e., the mind’s) taste, 

13 If it be poisoned] An allusion to the perils lurking in princes’ cups (line 
10). Cf. K. John, V, vi, 28: “who did taste to him? ” (i. c , to the 
poisoned king). So EnglaruTs Helicon (ed. Bullen, p. S7): “Golden 
cups do harbour poison.^* 
cxv, 7 Tan] Discolour, spoil. 

[ 106 ] 


Alas, why, fearing of Time’s tyranny. 

Might I not then saj^ “Now I love you best,” 

When I was certain o’er incertainty. 

Crowning the present, doubting of the rest ? 

Love is a babe; then might I not say so. 

To give full growth to that which still doth grow ? 


Let me not to the marriage of true minds 
Admit impediments. Love is not love 
, Which alters when it alteration finds. 

Or bends with the remover to remove: 

O, no ! it is an ever-fixed mark. 

That looks on tempests and is never shaken ; 

It is the star to every wandering bark. 

Whose worth ’s unknown, although his height be taken. 

11-12 certain . . . present] Cf. cvii, 7: Incertainties now crown them- 
selves assured.” 

CXVI, 1 Tnarriage] union. Cf. Ixxx, 1, supra, “Impediments” (line 2) 
suggests the words in the marriage service: “If any of you know 
cause or just impediment*^ etc. 

2-3 Love is not love . . . finds] Cf. Lear, I, i, 238-239: “Love’s not 
love When it is mingled with regards.” 

4 Or bends to remove] Or inclines to inconstancy at the call of the 
one who changes (or who is fickle). Cf. xxv, 13-14: “Then happy 
I that love and am beloved Where I may not remove nor be removed,** 
and note there. 

5-6 it is an ever- fixed mark , . . never shaken] Cf. Cor., V, iii, 74 : “Like 
a great sea-mark, standing every flaw.” 

8 Whose worth* 8 ... he taken] The star’s beneficial influence is incalcu- 
lable, although its altitude or elevation and position in the sky may 
be calculated for purposes of navigation. 

[ 106 ] 


Love ’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks 
Within his bending sickle’s compass come ; lo 

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, 

But bears it out even to the edge of doom. 

If this be error and upon me proved, 

»I never writ, nor no man ever loved. 


Accuse me thus ; that I have scanted all 
Wherein I should your great deserts repay, 

Forgot upon your dearest love to call. 

Whereto all bonds do tie me day by day ; 

That I have frequent been with unknown minds. 

And given to time your own dear-purchased right; 

That I have hoisted sail to all the winds 

Which should transport me farthest from your sight. 

Book both my wilfulness and errors down. 

And on just proof surmise accumulate ; lo 

t'' ’ 

9 Love ’5 not Time's foot\ Cf. 1 Hen, /F, V, iv, 81: “But thought’s the 
slave of life, and life time's fool ” (i. c.. Time’s plaything). 

11 his brief hours] Time’s brief hours. 

12 bears it out even to ,, , doom] endures to the brink of the last judg- 

ment. Cf. All 's Wellt III, iii, 5-6: “to bear it To the extreme edge of 

CXVII, 4 Whereto all bonds do tie me] For the legal pun on “bonds” 
cf. Barnes’ Parthenophil (1593), xi, 13: “And if in bonds to thee my 
love be tied." 

6 unknown minds] persons not worth the knowing Cf. xliii, 2 “ things 

6 given to time . . . right] squandered your rights in me (by wasting 
my time on others). Cf. 1 Hen. IV, II, iii, 42-43* “And given my 
treasures and my rights of thee To thick-eyed musing.” 

[ 107 ] 


Bring me within the level of your frown, 

But shoot not at me*in your waken’d hate; 

Since my appeal says I did strive to prove 
The constancy and virtue of your love. 


Like as, to make our appetites more keen. 

With eager compounds we our palate urge; 

As, to prevent our maladies unseen. 

We sicken to shun sickness when we purge; 

Even so, being full of your ne’er-cloying sweetness. 

To bitter sauces did I frame my feeding; 

And sick of welfare found a kind of meetness 
To be diseased, ere that there was true needing. 

Thus policy in love, to anticipate 

The ills that were not, grew to faults assured. 

And brought to medicine a healthful state. 

Which, rank of goodness, would by ill be cured : 

13-14 I did strive ... 0 / your love] Cf. cx, 10-11, supra. 

CXVIII, 2 eager] sharp, bitter, appetising. 

3 to prevent] to anticipate. 

7 sick of welfare] Cf. 2 Hen. /F, IV, i, 64: “To diet rank minds sick of 
happiness '' See line 12, and note, infra. 
d-14 Thu^ policy . . . sick of you] Thus love’s policy in the endeavour 
to anticipate the evils of an expected satiety brought on positive mala- 
dies; it submitted to medical treatment a healthy condition, which 
overflowing in robustness foolishly sought benefit from disagreeable 
medicaments. In the result the drugs poisoned the poet, who, sur- 
feited with his affection, thought to cxire himself of its anticipated 

12 rank of goodness] surfeited with or overflowing in good health. Cf. 
line 7, supra: “ sick of welfare ” ; Ani, and Cleop.^ ,V, ii, 211 : 

[ 108 ] 


But thence I learn, and find the lesson true. 

Drugs poison him that so fell<sick of you. 


What potions have I drunk of Siren tears, 

Dist/ird from limbecks foul as hell within. 

Applying fears to hopes and hopes to fears. 

Still losing when I saw myself to win ! 

What wretched errors hath my heart committed. 
Whilst it hath thought itself so blessed never ! 

How have mine eyes out of their spheres been fitted. 

In the distraction of this madding fever ! 

0 benefit of ill ! now I find true 
That better is by evil still made better; 

And ruin’d love, when it is built anew. 

Grows fairer than at first, more strong, far greater. 

**Rank of gross diet”, and HarrUet, IV, vii, 117: goodness growing 
to a plurisy.” 

cxrx, 1-2 What 'potions . . . li'mhecka^ Cf Barnes' ParthenophiU xlix, 
where, after denouncing his mistress as a Siren^ the poet writes: 
“From my love's ^lemJnc [have I] still [di] stilled tears ” “Limbeck,” 
“lembic,” or “ alembic ” is the vessel used in distillation 
4 StUl losing ... to win] Cf. cxxix, 11 (of lust): “A bliss in proof, and 
prov’d, a very woe.” 

1 How have mine eyes . . . been fitted] How have mine eyes started from 

their spheres as in a convulsive fit Cf. Mids N Dr,. II, i, 153: 
“stars shot madly from their spheres” and II, ii, 99: **sphcry eyne,” 
and Hamlet, I, v, 17 : “Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their 
spheres ” 

10 better is by evil . . . better] Cf. As you like it, II, i, 12. “Sweet are the 

uses of adversity ” 

11 ruin’d lo'j/e . . . built anew] Cf. Com. of Errors, III, ii, 4: “Shall love 

[ 109 ] 


So I return rebuked to my content, 

And gain by ill .thrice more than I have spent. 


That you were once unkind befriends me now, 

And for that sorrow which I then did feel 
Needs must I under my transgression bow. 

Unless my nerves were brass or. hammer’d steel. 

For if you were by my unkindness shaken. 

As I by yours, you’ve pass’d a hell of time; 

And I, a tyrant, have no leisure taken 
To weigh how once I suffer’d in your crime. 

O, that our night of woe might have remember’d 
My deepest sense, how hard true sorrow hits, lo 

And soon to you, as you to me, then tender’d 
The humble salve which wounded bosoms fits ! 

But that your trespass now becomes a fee; 

Mine ransoms yours, and yours must ransom me. 

in building, grow so ruinous?** and Trail, and Cress,, IV, ii, 102: 

the strong base and building of my love,** The figure, which identifies 
love with a building or “ mansion ” which is likely to grow “ruinous” 
unless subjected to “repair,” is fully expounded in Two Gent., V, iv, 
7-1 L 

cxx, 6 you*ve pass*d a hell of time] Cf. Liunrcce, 1287-1288: “And that 
deep torture may be call’d a hell. Where more is felt than one hath 
power to tell ” ; see also Rich, 111, I, iv, 62, and Othello, V, ii, 140. 

9 our night of woe] “Our” suggests the combined association (with “the 
night of woe ”) of the poet who caused it and the friend who suffered 
from it. 

0-10 might have . . , sense] might have reminded my inmost soul. For 
this causative use of “remember'd” cf. Winl, Tale, III, ii, 227, and 
Lear, I, iv, 64. 

[ 110 ] 


CXXl ^ 

’T is better to be vile than vile esteemed, 

When not to be receives reproach of being; 

An<J the just pleasure lost, which is so deemed 
Not by our feeling but by others’ seeing: 

For why should others’ false adulterate eyes 
Give salutation to my sportive blood ? 

Or on my frailties why are frailer spies. 

Which in their wills count bad what I think good ? 
No, I am that I am, and they that level 
At my abuses reckon up their own : 

I may be straight, though they themselves be bevel; 
By their rank thoughts my deeds must not be shown ; 
Unless this general evil they maintain. 

All men are bad and in their badness reign. 

cxxi» 2 When not to he , . . heinq^ When not to be vile (i f., being 
virtuous) receives the reproach of being vile. 

8-4 And the just 'pleasure lost . . . others’ seeing] And all sense of pleas- 
ure is lost in an action which, although one knows it to be virtu- 
ous and lawful, is unjustly held by the world to be vile. 

6 Give salutation . . . blood] Stir (by greeting) or stimulate my wanton 
blood. Cf. Hen. VIII, 11, iii, 103: “If this salute m?/ blood a jot ” 

8 in their unlls] at will, at their good pleasure Cf Ivii, 13 “tn your 

will,'* and note. For the varied meanings of “will” see cxxxv, 1 

9 I am that I am] Cf. S Hen. VI, V, vi, 83: “I am myself alone,” and 

Othello, I, i, 66: “I am not what I am.” 
level] aim. Cf. cxvii, 11, supra. 

11 bevel] crooked, out of the square; a term from carpentry. 

13 this general evil] this general or universal principle of evil, 

[ 111 ] 



Thy gift, thy tables, are within my brain 
Full character’d with lasting memory. 

Which shall above that idle rank remain. 
Beyond all date, even to eternity; 

Or, at the least, so long as brain and heart 
Have faculty by nature to subsist; 

Till each to razed oblivion yield his part 
Of thee, thy record never can be miss’d. 
That poor retention could not so much hold. 
Nor need I tallies thy dear love to score; 
Therefore to give them from me was I bold. 
To trust those tables that receive thee more : 
To keep an adjunct to remember thee 
Were to import forgetfulness in me. 

cxxii, 1 Thy gift, thy tables] Apparently the reference is to the friend’s 
gift to the poet of a memorandum book which the latter had given 
away (line 11). In Ixxvii, supray the poet would seem to have made 
the same kind of present to the friend. 

2 Full character'd . . . memory] Cf. Two Gent, II, vii, 3-4: “the table 
wherem all my thoughts Are visibly character'd ” [i e , inscribed] 
So Hamlet, I, iii, 68, and I, v, 98: “the table of my memory.” 

S above that idle rank] above the dignity of such humble objects as tables 
or memorandum books. 

5-6 so long to subsist] Cf. Hamlet, I, v, 96. 

9 That poor retention . . . hold] That poor instrument for retaining 

memoranda could not hold my large description of thee. 

10 tallies] sticks on which notches were scored for the purpose of keep- 

ing accounts. The word is used by Shakespeare elsewhere only in 
£ Hen. VI, IV, vii, 33. 

14 import] impute. 

[ 118 ] 



• No, Time, thou shalt not boast t6at I do change: 
Thy pyramids built up with newer might 
To me are nothing novel, nothing strange; 

Th^y are but dressings of a former sight. 

Our dates are brief, and therefore we admire 
What thou dost foist upon us that is old ; 

And rather make them born to our desire 
Than think that we before have heard them told. 

CXXIII, 2 Thy pyramids . . . newer might\ Time’s great structures built 
with ever-increasing solidity 

4 They are but dressings of a former sight] They are but rehabilitations 
of what has been seen or has existed in former times. Here Shake- 
speare draws further on that doctrine of the indestructibility of 
matter in spite of its outward mutability which Ovid expounds in 
his Metam , bk. xv. Cf. Golding’s translation, 1612 ed., p. 185 b: 

“Things eb and flow: cuen so the tyraes by kind 
Do flee and follow both at once, and euermore renew ; ” 

and p. 186 b: 

“No kind of thing keepes ay his shape and hew: 

For nature louing euer change, repayres one shape anew 
Upon another, neither doth there perish ought (trust mee) 

In all the world, but altring takes new shape “ 

Shakespeare repeatedly lays the same passage in Ovid under contribu- 
tion (cf. XV, lix, Ixiii, Ixiv, and Ixv). Spenser previously expounded the 
like doctrine in his Faerie Qiteene, HI, vi, st. 37 seq : 

“The substance is not chaunged nor altered 
But th’ only forme and outward fashion “ 

7 And rather to our desire] And rather cherish the impression that 
things really old are newly created to give us pleasure. 

8 ‘ [ 118 ] 


Thy registers and thee I both defy, 

Not wondering at the present nor the past, 

For thy records and what we see doth lie, 

Made more or less by thy continual haste. 

This I do vow, and this shall ever be, 

I will be true, despite thy scythe and thee. . 


If my dear love were but the child of state. 

It might for Fortune’s bastard be unfather’d. 

As subject to Time’s love or to Time’s hate. 

Weeds among weeds, or flowers with flowers gather’d. 
No, it was builded far from accident; 

It suffers not in smiling pomp, nor falls 
Under the blow of thralled discontent. 

Whereto the inviting time our fashion calls : 

11 doth /ie] the verb in the singular with a subject (“thy records and 
what we see”) in the plural. The deceptions of growth and de- 
cay practised on us by Time’s records and our own visions are due 
to the endless variability of indestructible matter. Nothing is new 
nor old. 

CXXIV, 1 the child of state] the child of circumstance, which is always 

2 unfathered] without an acknowledged father. 

7-8 thraUed discontent . . . calls] a possible vague allusion to the social 
and political unrest which distinguished alike the last decade of 
Elizabeth’s reign and the first decade of James I’s reign. Unem- 
ployment and Catholic plots against the throne were the chief 
causes of disquiet. The former source of “ discontent,” which 
produced much agrarian disturbance, might well bear the epithet 

[ 114 ] 


It fears not policy, that heretic, 

Which works on leases of short-Aumber’d hours, i 
But all alone stands hugely politic. 

That it nor grows with heat nor drowns with showers. 
To this I witness call the fools of time, 

. Which die for goodness, who have lived for crime. 


Were ’t aught to me I bore the canopy. 

With my extern the outward honouring. 

Or laid great bases for eternity. 

Which prove more short than waste or ruining ? 

9-10 'policy^ that heretic . . . short-numher* d kours\ “ Policy ” means 
“ intrigue,” “ underhand dealing ” There is a possible reference to 
the short-sighted political intrigues of the “ heretic ” Papists who under 
the Jesuit Parsons* guidance were specially active during the close of 
Queen Elizabeth’s reign in eager anticipation of her early death 

11 hugely politic] infinitely wise and prudent “ Politic,” altlK)ugh often 

used by Shakespeare in a bad sense (like policy, line 9, supra), has 
here its good sense 

12 grows with heat] Thus the original Quarto Steevens substituted gf/ow;5 

with heat But expanse or increase is an ordinary effect of heat 

13 the fools of time] the playthings of time, men of whom time tikes no 

serious account, Cf cxvi, 3, supra. “Love’s not Time's fool'' 

14 Which die . for crime] Penitent traitors, who expiated their crimes 

with piety on the scaffold. The words would apply to any polit- 
ical or religious conspirator against the throne who suffered capital 
punishment in Shakespeare's day. All met their death with prayer 
and pious courage. To this fact the poet ironically directs attention 
by way of indicating that their lives, unlike his unalterable affection 
were profitless because they were inconstant or inconsistent 
cxxv, 1-2 Were 't aught to me . . . honouring] Would it have been any 
benefit to me that I should take part in the formal ceremony of 

[ 116 ] 


Have I not seen dwellers on form and favour 
Lose all, and more, Ity paying too much rent. 

For compound sweet forgoing simple savour. 

Pitiful thrivers, in their gazing spent ? 

No, let me be obsequious in thy heart. 

And take thou my oblation, poor but free, ‘ lo 

Which is not mix’d with seconds, knows no art 
But mutual render, only me for thee. 

honour (in merely holding up “the canopy”), being merely sensible 
of the outward forms or semblance, with no inward sincerity ? Cf. 
Othello^ I, i, 62-64: “when my outward action doth demonstrate 
The native act and figure of my heart In compliment extern,’* The 
poet is repudiating the insinuation that he honoured his beloved 
patron with mere insincere lip-service and flimsy promises of eter- 
nising his fame 

5-6 dwellers on form and favour . . too much reni\ those eulogists who, 

laying excessive emphasis on an adored patron’s fine figure and good 
looks, forfeit his favour, and worse, by overdoing their obligations. 

7 compound . . simple\ The implied contrast between compound and 

simple interest points again at the extravagant compliment which the 
pitiful poetic sycophant substitutes for simple writing in vain hope 
of added lucre 

9 let me he obsequious in] let me pay due reverence or devotion to. See 
xxxi, 5, supra, and note. With the tenor of the context cf Dray- 
ton’s Idea, 1599, No. xlix: “Receive the incense which I offer here 
My soul’s oblations to thy sacred Name! ” 

11 15 not mix’d with seconds] is of the finest quality. “Seconds” (i e , 
coarse or mixed grains) is still used as the technical name of an in- 
ferior quality of “flour”; the word is appropriate to “oblation” (line 
10), an offering of grain. Sir Christopher Hatton writing to Queen 
Elizabeth in November, 1591, bids her “sift the chaff from the wheat 
so that the com of your commonwealth would be more pure, and mixi 
grains would less infect the sinews of your surety.” (See Nicolas* Life, 
p. 497.) 

[ 116 ] 


Hence, thou suborn’d informer ! a true soul 
When most impeach’d stands least in thy control. 


O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy power 
Dos’t hold Time’s fickle glass, his sickle, hour; 

13 rubom'd informer^ Canon Beeching ingeniously suggests an apostrophe 
to a false accuser who has brought against the poet a charge of in- 
sincerity which the opening lines of this sonnet repel. Desportes very 
similarly apostrophises rapporteurs dangereux'* who spread “ce 
m^chant bruit” that his mistress “fait nouveau change ” (Diane y II, 
xxxviii) Jealousy commonly inspires false witness against lovers’ sin- 
cerity and is apostrophised as “sour informer” {Venus and AdoniSy 
655), and as “provoker and maintainer of vain lies” (Barnes’ Par- 
thenophil, Ixxxi). A jealous rival- poet may be assumed to be the 
“suborn’d informer” here 

CXXVI This poem was omitted from Shakespeare’s “Poems” of 1640 
It is not in the sonnet form, being twelve lines in couplets. So-called 
“sonnets” in twelve lines figure in Lodge’s P/iz/Zw (1593), viii, xxvi, 
Linche’s Diella (1596), xiii, and W. Smith’s Cklons (1596), xxvii 
(in couplets). In the Quarto of 1609 there appeared at the end of 
this “sonnet” two pairs of brackets, one above the other, enclosing 
blank spaces, an indication on the part of the printer that he expected 
to fill in later the thirteenth and fourteenth lines. But the construc- 
tion of the poem in couplets justified no such expectation. Nor can it 
be fairly argued that the empty brackets, a mere typographical mis- 
conception, were designed to denote the close of the first section of 
soni^ts addressed to a man and the opening of the second section 
addressed to a woman. Internal and other evidence supports no 
such clear-cut bisection of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, 

* Timers (icicle glass . . hour\ Cf. Spenser’s Faene Queene, vii, viii, 

at. 1, lines 8-9: (Of life) “Whose flowring pride so fading and so 
fickle Short time shall soon cut down with his consuming sickle.” 

[ 117 ] 


Who hast by waning grown, and therein show’st 
Thy lovers withering as thy sweet self grow’st ; 

If Nature, sovereign mistress over wrack, 

As thou goest onwards, still will pluck thee back, 

She keeps thee to this purpose, that her skill 
May time disgrace and wretched minutes kill. 

Yet fear her, O thou minion of her pleasure ! 

She may detain, but not still keep, her treasure: 

Her audit, though delay’d, answer’d must be. 

And her quietus is to render thee. 

S Who had by waning gTown\ Another reminiscence of Ovid’s phil- 
osophy {Metam.f xv) touching the ceaseless “ eb and flow ” of “Dame 
Nature” as qualified by Time. See xv, Ixiii, Ixiv, Ixv, and cxxiii, 
supra. Cf. Golding’s translation (1612 ed , p. 185 h ) ; “ Things eb and 
flow ... Do flee and follow both at once and euermore renew.” 
5-8 Nature, sovereign mistress . . wretched minutes hll] Shakespeare, 
playfully adapting Ovid’s doctrine of “growth by waning,” follows 
the Latin poet in making “Dame Nature,’* by exercise of “cwnmn^ 
hand” — “artifices manus” in the Latin (cf. line 7, “her skill”) — 
cherish youth at the outset in defiance of Time, “ eater up of things.” 
All Nature’s efforts to discredit Time’s power are, however, doomed 
to futility Her mutations mean destruction of individual youth. 
“And when that long continuance hath them [i e , living things] bit. 
You [i. e.. Time] leisurely by lingering death consume them every 

9-10 O thou minion . . . treasure] The “lovely boy” who monopolises 
nature’s affection must in due course succumb to time’s inexorable 
law of death. The tone of address does not harmonise with the theory 
that the “fickle boy” and “Nature’s minion'* is identical with the 
poet’s friend of former sonnets. The poem, while subtilised by 
Ovid’s philosophy, is in the vein of many lyrical apostrophes of the 
boy Cupid. Cf. Sidney’s Adrophel and Stella, Sonnet xvii, where 
Nature is called Cupid’s “pitying grandame.” 

11-12 Her audit . . . tender thee] Nature must make a settlement of 

[ 118 ] 




In the old age black was not counted fair. 

Or if it were, it bore not beauty’s name ; 

But now is black beauty’s successive heir, 

An4 beauty slander’d with a bastard shame; 

For since each hand hath put on nature’s power. 
Fairing the foul with art’s false borrow’d face, 
Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bower. 

But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace. 
Therefore my mistress’ eyes are raven black. 

Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem 

her accounts with Time, though it may be delayed, and she will get 
her acquittance or formal discharge only when she surrenders thee 
For “quietus “ cf. Hamlet^ III, i, 75. 

cxxvii, 1 In the old age . . . fair] The praise of a dark complexion is 
ridiculed in L. L. L , IV, iii, 262 seq Dum “To look like her are 
chimney-sweepers black. Long. And since her time are colliers 
counted bright. King, And Ethiopes of their sweet complexion crack 
Dum Dark needs no candles now, for dark is light. “ Similarly at a 
slightly earlier date in France “the praise of black" was renounced 
by sonneteers. Cf Jodelle’s Contr Amours, Sonnet vii: “Combien 
de fois mes vers ont-ils dor^,Ce^ cheueux noirs dignes dVne Meduse ’ 
Combien de fois ce teint noir qui m’amuse, Ay-ie de lis et roses 
colore?" Shakespeare pursues the theme in cxxxi and cxxxii, infra 

3 successive heir] lawful successor. 

6 art's false borrow'd face] a reference to the disguising art of toilet cos- 
metics for dyeing hair and colouring the face. Cf Ixvii and Ixviii, 

9 my mistress' eyes] Thus the Quarto. It seems reasonable to substi- 

tute my mistress's brows, in order to avoid the repetition of eyes in 
the next line. 

10 suited] clothed 

[ 119 ] 


At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack. 

Slandering creation yath a false esteem : 

Yet so they mourn, becoming of their woe, 

That every tongue says beauty should look so. 


How oft, when thou, my music, music play’st. 

Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds 
With thy sweet fingers, when thou gently sway’st 
The wiry concord that mine ear confounds, 

Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap 
To kiss the tender inward of thy hand, 

11-12 who, not bom fair . . . a false esteem] who not being bom fair yet 
possess every artificial beauty, thereby dishonouring nature by their 
spurious reputation for beauty. 

13 Yet so they mourn . . . their woe^ “Becoming of their woe” means 
“adorning or gracing their woe.” Cf. cl. 5, For the general senti- 
ment cf. Sidney’s Asiro'phel and Stella, Sonnet vii, where the beams 
of a mistress* eyes are “wrapped m colour black,” and wear “this 
mourning weed ” so “ That whereas black seems beauty’s contrary: 
She even in black doth make all beauties flow ” Sidney’s “mourn- 
ing ” image is more precisely reproduced throughout cxxxii, infra 
CXXVIII, 1-9 How oft, when thou . those jacks . . . To he so tickled\ 
Cf. Ttt Andr., II, iv, 46. “And make the silken strings delight to 
hiss them ” [? e„ the lady’s fingers playing on the lute] See also 
Ben Jonson’s Every Man out of his Humour, Act III, Scene iii, 
where Fastidious says of Saviolina playing the “ viol de gambo ” : 
“You see the subject of her sweet fingers there — O she tickles it so, 
that ... I have wished myself to be that instrument, I think, a 
thousand times ” 

5 those jacks] like “dancing chips” (line 10) and “saucy jacks” (line 13), 

the keys of the spinet or virginal, an elementary form of pianoforte. 
Cf. Ram Alley, 161 1 (Dodsley’s Old Plays, X, 346) : “virginal jacks,'* 

6 tender inward] delicate inside. ^ 

[ 1 ^ 0 ] 


Whilst my poor lips, which should that harvest reap, 

At the wood’s boldness by thee blushing stand ! 

To be so tickled, they would change their state 

And situation with those dancing chips, lo 

O’er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait. 

Making dead wood more blest than living lips. 

Since saucy jacks so happy are in this. 

Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss. 


The expense of spirit in a waste of shame 
Is lust in action; and till action, lust 
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame. 

Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust; 

Enjoy’d no sooner but despised straight; 

Past reason hunted ; and no sooner had. 

Past reason hated, as a swallowed bait, 

On purpose laid to make the taker mad : 

Mad in pursuit, and in possession so; 

Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme; lo 

11-12 O'er whom . . . Hiring lips] Cf. Constable’s MwceHancous SotinW'!, 
V (ed Hazlitt, p 26) “A lute of senselesse wood by nature dumbe 
Toucht by thy hand doth speake dtmnely well ” 

CXXIX The ravages of lust is a favourite topic with sonneteers Cf 
Sidney’s penultimate sonnet in the appendix to Astrophel mid Stella: 
“Thou blind man’s mark, thou fool’s self chosen snare,” and Emanr- 
dvlje, sonnets written by E C., 1595, No. xxxvii, “O lust, of snered 
love the foule corrupter.” See also Venus and Adorns, 799-804, and 
Lucrece, 687-735. 

1 The expense] The expenditure or spending 

t m ] 


A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe ; 

Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream. 

All this the world well knows ; yet none knows well 
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell. 


My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; 

Coral is far more red than her lips’ red : 

If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; 

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. 

I have seen roses damask’d, red and white. 

But no such roses see I in her cheeks; 

And in some perfumes is there more delight 
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. 

II 'proved, a very woe] Malone’s correction of the Quarto reading proud 

and very woe 

cxxx Satiric allusion is made here to the extravagant imagery of contem- 
porary sonnets, notably of those in which the mistress’ features were 
compared to the sun or the stars or precious stones. See Sonnet xai, 
supra. Shakespeare would seem to be ridiculing especially Lodge ’b 
Phillis (1593), ^nnet viii: ** No stars her eyes to clear the wandering 
night, But shining suns of true divinity . . . No coral is her lip, no 
rose her fair.” 

4 If hairs he wires] “Wires” in the sense of hair was distinctive of the 

sonneteer’s affected vocabulary. Cf. Daniel’s Delia (1591), xxvi 
“And golden hairs may change to silver wire**; Phillis (1593), 

i\: “Made blush the beauties of her curled wire** ; Barnes’ Par- 
thenophil. Sonnet xlviii: “Her hairs no grace of golden wires want.” 

5 da'mask*d, red and white] Cf. As you like it. III, v, 122 : “ mingled 


8 the breath , . . reeks] Cf. Constable’s Diana, Decade i, Sonnet ix* 
“From her sweet breath their [L a., the flowers’] sweet smells do 



1 love to hear her spieak, yet well 1 know 

That music hath a far more pleasing sound ; lo 

Tl grant I never saw a goddess go, 

My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground : 

And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare 
As any she belied with false compare. 


Thou art as tyrannous, so as thou art. 

As those whose beauties proudly make them cruel ; 

For well thou know’st to my dear doting heart 
Thou art the fairest and most precious jewel. 

Yet, in good faith, some say that thee behold. 

Thy face hath not the power to make love groan : 

To say they err I dare not be so bold, 

Although I swear it to myself alone. 

And to be sure that is not false I swear, 

A thousand groans, but thinking on thy face, lo 

One on another’s neck, do witness bear 
Thy black is fairest in my judgement’s place. 

9-10 I love to hear . . . 'pleasing sound] Cf. Constable’s Miscellaneous 
Sonnets^ No. v : “And from thy lips and breast sweet tunes do come ” 
11-14 I grant . . on the ground] Cf. Lodge’s viii : “No Nymph 

is she but mistress of the air.” “Go” means “walk.” Cf li, 14 
14 she] here a substantive. Cf. Tw. Night, I, v, 226: “you are the 
cruell’st she alive.” 

cxxxi, 1, 80 as thou art] “as” here is an enclitic of emphasis. 

11 One on another's neck] Cf 1 Hen, IV, IV, iii, 92: “in the neck of 
that,” a common phrase. Sec also Hamlet, IV, vii, 164: '*One woe 
doth tread upon another's heel.'* 

[ 123 ] 


In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds, 

And thence this^ slander, as I think, proceeds. 


Thine eyes I love, and they, as pitying me, 

Knowing thy heart torments me with disdain. 

Have put on black and loving mourners be, 

Looking with pretty ruth upon my pain. 

And truly not the morning sun of heaven 
Better becomes the grey cheeks of the east. 

Nor that full star that ushers in the even 
Doth half that glory to the sober west. 

As those two mourning eyes become thy face: 

O, let it then as well beseem thy heart 
To mourn for me, since mourning doth thee grace. 
And suit thy pity like in every part. 

Then will I swear beauty herself is black, 

And all they foul that thy complexion lack. 


Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan 
For that deep wound it gives my friend and me ! 

14 thu slander] the allegation of the inability of the lady’s “face” to “make 
love groan” (line 6, supra). 

CXXXII, 3 black and loving mourners he\ See cxxvii, 13, and note. 

6 the grey cheeks of the east] Cf. Tit. Andr., “the mom is bright and 
gfrey,”and ^iiren./F,II,iii, 18-19: “the sun In the gfrey vault of heaven.” 
9 As those two mourning eyes become thy face] For the image, cf. T* of 
Shrew, IV, v, 31-32 : “What stars do spangle heaven with such beauty. 
As those two eyes become thy heavenly face? ” 

CXXXIII For the subject-matter of this and the next sonnet (the intrigue of 
the poet’s friend with his mistress), see note on xl, supra. 

[ 124 ] 


Is ’t not enough to torture me alone, 

But slave to slavery my sweet’ st friend must be ? 
Me from myself thy cruel eye hath taken, 

And my next self thou harder hast engrossed : 

Of him, myself, and thee, I am forsaken ; 

A torment thrice threefold thus to be crossed. 
Prison my heart in thy steel bosom’s ward. 

But then my friend’s heart let my poor heart bail; 
Whoe’er keeps me, let my heart be his guard; 
Thou canst not then use rigour in my gaol : 

And yet thou wilt; for I, being pent in thee, 
Perforce am thine, and all that is in me. 


So, now I have confess’d that he is thine 
And I myself am mortgaged to thy will. 

Myself I’ll forfeit, so that other mine 
Thou wilt restore, to be my comfort still : 

9 Prison my heart , , ward] Cf xxii, 6-7, and cix, 3-4, and note. So 

Banies’ ParthenophU, xvi : "'mine heart in her body lies imprisoned ” 

CXXXIV The legal terminology in this sonnet (cf. Ixxxvii, 3-4) again 
closely resembles that employed by Baines in his Parthenophily Sonnets 
viii, ix, and xi, where “mortgage,"’ “bail,” “forfeit,” “forfeiture,” 
“deed of gift” are all applied to the mistress’ hold on the lover’s heart 
This sort of phraseology, applied to amorous purposes, was well 
satirised by Sir John Davies in his Gullinge Sonnets, of which No. vii 
opens: “Into the midle temple of my harte”; and No. viii: “My 
case is this, I love Zepheria bright ” (Davies’ Works, ed. Grosart, 
ii. 61-62). 

2 thy will] printed thus in the Quarto. Sec Ivii, 13, and cxxxv, 1, and note. 

3 other mine] my “alter ego ” 


But thou wilt not, nor he will not be free. 

For thou art covetous and he is kind; 

He learn’d but surety-like to write for me. 

Under that bond that him as fast doth bind. 

The statute of thy beauty thou wilt take, 

Thou usurer, that put’st forth all to use, lo 

And sue a friend came debtor for my sake; 

So him I lose through my unkind abuse. 

Him have I lost; thou hast both him and me: 

He pays the whole, and yet am I not free. 


Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will, 

And Will to boot, and Will in overplus; 

More than enough am I that vex thee still. 

To thy sweet will making addition thus. 

Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious. 

Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine ? 

Shall will in others seem right gracious. 

And in my will no fair acceptance shine ? 

7-8 He learned . doth hind] See note on Merck, of Ven, I, ii, 73: 

“ the Frenchman became his surety and sealed under for another.” 

9 The siatvie of thy heaidy] The statutory security for thy beauty 

11 a friend came\ a friend who became. 

12 my unkind ahu8e\ ihe unkind way in which I have been deluded, 
cxxxv, 1 Whoever hath her wish . . Will] In this and the next 

sonnet the word “will” occurs seventeen times, and in nine places it 
is in the original Quarto italicised and printed with a capital, thus: 
WiU (In this regard the typography of the Quarto is followed in 
the present text.) The capital letter and the italics suggest that a 
pun on the poet’s Christian name is here intended, although WtU 

[ 126 ] 


The sea, all water, yet receives rain still. 

And in abundance addeth to his gtore; lo 

is so often printed thus in Elizabethan books that the typography 
gives no sure ground for the deduction. Cf. John Davies’ Summa 
Totalis (1607), where in the last twenty-six stanzas the substantive 
“Will” is used thirty times; it is italicised with the initial capital 
twelve times, and has the initial capital without the ilaluth sixteen 
times , such are mere typographical vagaries. Apart from its usage 
as a proper name the word was especially common in the senses of 
self-will and lust, as well as in those of wish, caprice, goodwill, de- 
liberate purpose, and testament. Its variety of significations 
encouraged verbal quibbles, and Shakespeare’s plays abound in 
them, though nowhere does he bring his own Christian name 
under contribution Cf L. L L , II i, 98-99; and Merck, of Vm^ 
I, ii, 21-22, and liote; M. WiveSy III, iv, 58, Two Gent.y I, iii, 63, 
IV, ii, 88-89; Much Ado, V, iv, 26. Here the quibbling mainly re- 
volves about the word in the sensual significance of “lust” and 
its colloquial employment as the poet’s Christian name See Lee’s 
Life of Shakespeare, Appendix viii (“The Will Sonnets”) There is 
small ground for assuming that any reference is anywhere made to a 
second lover of the lady bearing the poet’s own Christian name. In 
Ivii, 13, the substantives “ Will,” and cxxi, 8, the plural form 
“ Wills” are used without quibbling significance 
Whoever . . . Will] An allusion to the current cant phrase, which was 
utilised as the name of a popular comedy by William Haughton, c. 
1597. “A woman will have her will.” 

9-10 The sea, all vmter ... to his store] A favourite reflection of Shake- 
speare Cf. 3 Hen VI, V, iv, 8-9: 

“ With tearful eyes add water to the sea, 

And give more strength to that which hath too much ” , 

Tw. Night, I, i, 10-11 (an apostrophe to the spirit of love) “thy ca- 
pacity . . receiveth as the sea”; As you like it, II, i, 46-49; 
and Lover* 8 Compl , 39-40 

[ 127 ] 


So thou, being rich in Will, add to thy Will 
One will of mine, to ^ake thy large Will more. 

Let no unkind, no fair beseechers kill ; 

Think all but one, and me in that one WiU. 


If thy soul check thee that I come so near. 

Swear to thy blind soul that I was thy Will, 

And will, thy soul knows, is admitted there; 

Thus far for love, my love-suit, sweet, fulfil. 

Will will fulfil the treasure of thy love, 

Ay, fill it full with wills, and my will one. 

In things of great receipt with ease we prove 
Among a number one is reckon’d none : 

11-14 So tJiou, being rich . . . Will] The lady being rich in wiU (i. e., 
obduracy and lustfulness) is bidden increase the abundant store by 
granting the wish or will of her present lover : “Let not my mistress,” 
the poet concludes, “kill in her unkindness any of her fair spoken 
suitors Rather let her think all who beseech her favours incorporate 
in one alone of her lovers — and that one the writer whose name of 
‘Will* is a synonym for the passions that dominate her.’* 

CXXXVI, 2 thy blind sovd] Cf xxvii, 10, supra: “The sightless view of the 

8 And will ... is admitted there] Cf. Sir John Davies’ Nosce Teipsum 
(Works, ed. Grosart, ii, p. 79): **WiU holds the royal sceptre in the 

6 wills] the varied forms of will, i. e., lusts, stubbornness, etc. The 
plural form is common. Cf Barnes* Parthenophil: “Mine heart bound 
martyr to thy wills** and cxii, 8, supra. 

8 one is reckon'd none] a quibble on the proverbial expression “one is no 
number,” which is twice repeated in Marlowe and Chapman’s Hero 
and Leandety Sestiad 1, 255 and Sestiad V, 339, and is again quoted in 
Rtm. and Jtd.y I, ii, 32-33. See note there. Cf. also viii, ^4, supra. 

[ 128 ] 


Then in the number let me pass untold, 

Though in thy store’s account 1 one must be; lo 

'For nothing hold me, so it please Ihee hold 
That nothing me, a something sweet to thee: 

Make but my name thy love, and love that still, 
'And then thou lovest me, for my name is Will. 


Thou blind fool. Love, what dost thou to mine eyes. 
That they behold, and see not what they see? 

They know what beauty is, see where it lies. 

Yet what the best is take the worst to be. 

If eyes, corrupt by over-partial looks. 

Be anchor’d in the bay where all men ride. 

Why of eyes’ falsehood hast thou forged hooks. 

Whereto the judgement of my heart is tied ? 

Why should my heart think that a several plot 
Which my heart knows the wide world’s common 
place ? 10 

13-14 Make hut , Will] Make will (i. e , the quality which forms 
thy being or thyself) thy love, and then thou lovest me, because my 
name is “ Will/’ The identity between us is complete. The poet s final 
claim to the lady’s favours is that he and her ruling passion go by the 
same name 

cxxxvii A typical example of the vituperative sonnet, — a variety which 
is extremely common in Ronsard and his French and English dis- 
ciples. Cf. Jodelle’s Contr" Amours Cf. cxlvii, 13-14, and cl, nifra 
5-6 If eyes . . Be anchor'd] Cf. Ant. and Cleop , I, v, 33 (Cleopatra of 

Pompey her lover) ; “There would he anchor his aspect.” 

9-10 several plot . . common place] plot of land in private ownership 

. . . common land. For this legal terminology cf L. L X,II, i, ^22: 
“My Ups are no common^ though several they be.” 

» [ 129 ] 


Or mine eyes seeing this, say this is not, 

To put fair truth uj^on so foul a face? 

In things right true my heart and eyes have erred. 
And to this false plague are they now transferred. 


When my love swears that she is made of truth, 

I do believe her, though I know she lies. 

That she might think me some untutor’d youth. 
Unlearned in the world’s false subtleties. 

Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young. 
Although she knows my days are past the best. 

Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue: 

On both sides thus is sample truth suppress’d. 

But w'l “refore says she not she is unjust? 

And wherefore say not I that I am old ? 

O, love’s best habit is in seeming trust. 

And age in love loves not to have years told: 
Therefore I lie with her and she with me. 

And in our faults by lies we flatter’d be. 

CXXXVIII This sonnet is the opening poem of Pass Pilg„ 1599 Some 
textual variations are noticed in the reprint of that miscellany. 

6 Although she knows . . . the best\ See note on xxii, 1, supra 

8-9 On both sides . . . unjiLst] In Pass. Pilg. these lines run: “Out- 
facing faults in Loue, with loues ill rest. But wherefore sayes my 
Loue that she is young?" 

11 O, love's best habit is in seeming trust] Pass. Pilg. reads: “O, Louei 
best habile is a soothing toung.*' 

13-14 Therefore I lie .. . flatter'd be] Pass Pilg reads: “Ther- 
fore He lye with Loue, and Loue with me, Since that our faults in 
Loue thus smother’d be.” 

[ 180 ] 



^ O, call not me to justify the wro}>g 
That thy unkindness lays upon my heart; 

Wound me not with thine eye, but with thy tongue; 

Use power with power, and slay me not by art. 

Tell me thou lovest elsewhere; but in my sight. 

Dear heart, forbear to glance thine eye aside: 

What need’st thou wound with cunning, when thy might 
Is more than my o’er-press’d defence can bide ? 

Let me excuse thee : ah, my love well knows 

Her pretty looks have been mine enemies; lo 

And therefore from my face she turns my foes. 

That they elsewhere might dart their injuries : 

Yet do not so; but since I am near slain. 

Kill me outright with looks, and rid my ’;ain. 


Be wise as thou art cruel ; do not press 

;7igue-tied patience with too much disdain; 

Lest v lend me words, and words express 
The manner of my pity-wanting pain. 

If I might teach thee wit, better it were. 

Though not to love, yet, love, to tell me so; 

CXXXIX, 3 Wound me not with thine eye] Cf. Rom. and Jul , II, iv, 14: 

stabbed with a white wench’s black eye ” 

14 Kill me outright . . . pain] Cf Constable’s DianUy Decade iv, Sonnet 
v: “Do speedy execution vnth your eye**; and Sidney’s Astrophel 
and Stella, Sonnet xlviii* “Dear kiUer, spare not thy sweet cruel shot, 

A kind of grace it is to slay with speed** “Rid” means “get rid of,” 
“destroy ” 

CXL, 6 to te(l me 5o] to tell me that thou dost love. 

[131 ] 


As testy sick men, when their deaths be near, 

No news but health ^rom thdr physicians know. 

For, if I should despair, I should grow mad. 

And in my madness might speak ill of thee : lo • 

Now this ill-wresting world is grown so bad, 

Mad slanderers by mad ears believed be. • 

That I may not be so, nor thou belied. 

Bear thine eyes straight, though thy proud heart go 


In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes, 

For they in thee a thousand errors note; 

But ’tis my heart that loves what they despise, 

Who, in despite of view, is pleased to dote ; 

Nor are mine ears with thy tongue’s tune delighted ; 

Nor tender feeling, to base touches prone, 

Nor taste, nor smell, desire to be invited 
To any sensual feast with thee alone: 

But my five wits nor my five senses can 

Dissuade one foolish heart from serving thee, lo 

Who leaves unsway’d the likeness of a man. 

Thy proud heart’s slave and vassal wretch to be: 

11 iU'Wresiing] misinterpreting maliciously. 

14 Bear thine eyes . . . wide] Cf. xciii, 4, supra: *‘Thy looks wUh me, thy 
heart in other placed 
cxm, 6 hose touches] sensual indulgence. 

9 five wUs] The wits or intellectual faculties were reckoned of the same 
number as the “senses.” Cf. Much Ado^ I, i, 55, and note. 

11-12 Who leaves unswayed . . . wrdchtohe] (One foolish heart) which, 
foregoing iU control, 'makes of a man the mere husk or simulacrum 
[ 132 ] 


Only my plague thus far I count my gain, 
That she that makes me sin ^watds me pain. 


Love is my sin, and thy dear virtue hate. 

Hate of my sin, grounded on sinful loving: 

O, but with mine compare thou thine own state. 
And thou shalt find it merits not reproving; 

Or, if it do, not from those lips of thine. 

That have profaned their scarlet ornaments 
And seal’d false bonds of love as oft as mine, 
Robb’d others’ beds’ revenues of their rents. 

Be it lawful I love thee, as thou lovest those 
Whom thine eyes woo as mine importune thee: 
Root pity in thy heart, that, when it grows. 

Thy pity may deserve to pitied be. 

of a human being, thereby suffering him to become thy proud heart’s 
slave and wretched vassal. 

CXLII, 6 their scarlet ornaments] Cf, Edward 111, II, i, 10: “His cheeks 
put on their scarlet ornament ” So Constable’s Diana, Decade iv. 
Sonnet vi: “Your lips in scarlet dady 

7 seaVd false bonds of love] Cf Merch, of Ven , II, vi, 6: “To seal love*s 

bonds*' {i. e,, to kiss). So Venus and Adonis, 511-516; “sweet seals 
in my soft lips imprinted . . . thy ^ea/-manual on my wax-red lips”; 
and Meas for Meas., IV, i, 5-6: “my kisses . . Seals of love but 
seal’d in vain.” 

8 Robb'd others' . . . rents] Sought intercourse with married men. Cf. 

Daniel’s Complaint of Rosamond (1592), 755-75C: “And in unclean- 
ness ever have been fed By the revenue of a wanton bed," and Lucrece, 
1619-1.]620 : “ Dear husband, in the interest of thy bed A stranger came,” 




If thou dost seek to have what thou dost hide. 
By self-exampl^ mayst thou be denied ! 


Lo, as a careful housewife runs to catch 
One of her feather’d creatures broke away, 

Sets down her babe, and makes all swift dispatch 
In pursuit of the thing she would have stay ; 

Whilst her neglected child holds her in chase. 

Cries to catch her whose busy care is bent 
To follow that which flies before her face. 

Not prizing her poor infant’s discontent: 

So runn’st thou after that which flies from, thee. 
Whilst I thy babe chase thee afar behind; 

But if thou catch thy hope, turn back to me. 

And play the mother’s part, kiss me, be kind: 

So will I pray that thou mayst have thy Will, 
If thou turn back and my loud crying still. 

18 7/ ikou . . . dost hide] If thou then wouldst have of me that love 
which thou now hidest away from me, which thou now declinest to 
give me. 

CXLIII, 3 Sets down her babe] For the imagery cf. xxii, 11-12, supra, 
where the poet promises to bear and keep his beloved s heart ** so 
chary As tender nurse her babe from faring ill.” 

13 Will] This word is italicised with a capital letter in the Quarto, 
and a pun is commonly detected as in Sonnets cxxxv and cxxxvi, 
supra, ” Thou mayst have thy Wdl ” is a variant on the cur- 
rent catch-phrase “ A woman will have her will ” already employed, 
cxxxv, 1, supra,, and here again seems to be a pun on the poet’s 
Christian name. The moral of the sonnet is somewhat equivocal. 
The poet presents his mistress as a country housewife, who sets 
down himself, “her babe,” to catch a “feather’d creature” who 

[ 134 ] 



Two loves I have of comfort and^ despair, 

Which like two spirits do suggest me still ; 

The better angel is a man right fair, 

The worser spirit a woman colour’d ill. 

To ‘win me soon to hell, my female evil 
Tempteth my better angel from my side. 

And would corrupt my saint to be a devil, 

Wooing his purity with her foul pride. 

And whether that my angel be turn’d fiend 
Suspect I may, yet not directly tell; 

flies out of her poultry-yard. The poet so far from regarding the 
escaping thing as a serious rival wishes the woman success in the 
chase on condition that she will then come back and kiss his tears 
away. There is some suggestion of a “menage a trois**; see xl, 
mpra, and note. But doubt is permissible whether the “ feather’d 
creature” could portend real danger to the good relations of the 
woman and her “ babe.” 

CXLIV This sonnet is the second poem in Pass. Pilg. of 1599, with 
some slight textual variations there noted. For the conflict between 
the poet’s affection for friend and mistress see xl, supra, and note, 
and cf. xlii, xliii, cxxxii, and cxxxiii. 

2 suggest] tempt 

0 Tempteth . . . from my side] Cf. OtheUo, V, ii, 211: “Yea, curse his 
better angel from his side,’* and Drayton’s Idea (1599), Sonnet xxii : 

“An evil spirit, your beauty, haunts me still . . . 

Which ceaseth not to tempt me to each ill , . 

Thus am I still provoked to every evil 
By that good-wicked spirit, sweet angel-de^il ” 

Mark Antony calls Brutus “Ccesar’s angel” {Jul Cobs , III, ii, 181) 
side] Thus Pass, Pilg. The 1009 Quarto reads wrongly siqhi. 

9 And whether . . . fiend] Cf. Jodelle’s CorUr’ Amours, Sonnet vi, “Fai. 
sant d’un diable un ange” 


[ 135 ] 


But being both from me, both to each friend, 

1 gviess one angel in another’s hell : 

Yet this shall I ife’er know, but live in doubt. 
Till my bad angel fire my good one out. 


Those lips that Love’s own hand did make 
Breathed forth the sound that said “I hate,” 

To me that languish’d for her sake : 

But when she saw my woeful state, 

Straight in her heart did mercy come. 

Chiding that tongue that ever sweet 
Was used in giving gentle doom ; 

And taught it thus anew to greet ; 

“I hate” she alter’d with an end. 

That follow’d it as gentle day 
Doth follow night, who, like a fiend. 

From heaven to hell is flown away ; 

“I hate” from hate away she threw. 

And saved my life, saying “not you.” 

14 fire . . . otd] The expression which had a literary character in Shake- 
speare’s day is now a vulgarism. So Guilpin’s Skialetheta (1598, 
ed. Grosart, p. 17): “But Hebe loth (wench) to be fired out*' See 
Lear, V, iii, 23, and note. Cf Athenceum, January 19, 1901. 

CXLV This sonnet is in octosyllabics, like Lyly’s familiar song “Cupid 
and my Campaspe played,” which is also in fourteen lines but, un- 
like the present poem, is in couplets. The temper of the two poems 
is similar. 

11-12 nighty who ... is jiown away] Cf. Lucrece, 1081-1082: ** solemn 
night with slow sad gait descended To ugly hell'' 

13-14 “/ hale" . . . “nof you"] She deprived the words *T ha|e” of the 




Poor soul, the centre of my sinfuj earth, 

. . . these rebel powers that thee array. 

Why d(5st thou pine within and suffer dearth, 

Painting thy outward walls so costly gay ? 

Why so large cost, having so short a lease, 

Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend ? 

Shall worms, inheritors of this excess, 

Eat up thy charge ? is this thy body’s end ? 

Then, soul, live thou upon thy servant’s loss. 

And let that pine to aggravate thy store; lo 

Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross; 

Within be fed, without be rich no more : 

tragic consequence of hate by adding the words “not you/’ A like 
quibble in which the negative particle “not” is employed to identi- 
cal purpose is in Lucrece, lines 1534-1540 

CXLVI, 1-^2 Poor sold . . array] There is an obvious corruption here 
The Quarto repeats by a typographical error at the beginning of the 
second line My sinfid earth from the end of the first line. Malone’s 
suggestion of Fool'd by those rebel powerSy etc , seems as good as any 
“Array” is occasionally found in the sense of “afflict” or “tor- 
ment,” which would suit the context But the ordinary meaning of 
“ clothe” or “ adorn ” seems alone consistent with the “ costly 
gay ” ornament in which, according to line 4, the powers of sin 
have invested the soul’s external home Cf for the relation between 
the soul and the body Rom. and Jul , II, i, 1-2: “Can I go for- 
ward when my heart is here? Turn back, dull earths and find 
thy centre out ” See also Merck of Ven , V, i, 64-66. “Such har- 
mony is in immortal soids; But whilst this muddy vesture of decay 
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it ” 

10 aggravate] increase. 

11 Buy lerms divine . . of dross] Buy long periods of divine salvation 



So shall thou feed on Death, that feeds on men, 

And Death once dead, there ’s no more dying then. 


My love is as a fever, longing still 

For that which longer nurseth the disease; 

Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill, 

The uncertain sickly appetite to please. 

My reason, the physician to my love. 

Angry that his prescriptions are not kept. 

Hath left me, and I desperate now approve 
Desire is death, which physic did except. 

Past cure I am, now reason is past care. 

And frantic-mad with evermore unrest; 

My thoughts and my discourse as madmen’s are. 

At random from the truth vainly express’d; 

For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee 

Who art as black as hell, as dark as night. 

by disposing of all hours wasted in sensual indulgence. Cf. Ovid’s 
Metam., xv (Golding’s transl., 1612, p. 186 b) : “filthy droase of earth.’’ 
CXLVII, 5 My reaaon, the phyaician io my love^ Cf. M. Wives, II, i, 5’. 
“though Love uae Reason for hia phyaician, he admits hun not for 
his counsellor.’’ 

7-8 / desperate now ... did except] My desperate case proves that 
love, which took exception to the physic of reason, is death. 

9 Past cure . . . past core] This common proverb is quoted in L. L. L., 
V, ii, 28. 

10-11 And frantic-mad ... as madmen’s are] Cf. Drayton’s Idea, 
1594, No. xliii : “ But still distracted in Love’s lunacy. And Bedlam- 
like thus raving in my grief. Now rail upon her hair, ” etc. 

14 Who art as Hack as hell . . . night] Cf . cxxvii, supra, and not^. 

[ 138 ] 



O me, what eyes hath Love put i» my head, 

Which have no correspondence with true sight ! 

Or, if they have, where is my judgement fled, 

That censures falsely what they see aright ? 

If tliat be fair whereon my false eyes dote. 

What means the world to say it is not so? 

If it be not, then love doth well denote 
Love’s eye is not so true as all men’s : no. 

How can it ? O, how can Love’s eye be true. 

That is so vex’d with watching and with tears ? lo 

No marvel then, though I mistake my view ; 

The sun itself sees not till heaven clears. 

O cunning. Love ! with tears thou keep’st me blind, 
Lest eyes well-seeing thy foul faults should find. 


Canst thou, O cruel ! say I love thee not. 

When I against myself with thee partake? 

Do I not think on thee, when I forgot 
Am of myself, all tyrant, for thy sake ? 

cxLvin, 4 censure^ judges. 

8 Love*8 eye . . , tio,] No particular sanctity attaches to this perplexing 
punctuation of the Quarto. The colon looks like a typographical 
superfluity and may well take the place of the comma after 7io. A 
pun on ‘‘eye*’ and “aye,” the affirmative particle, seems obviously 

CXLIX, 2 When J . . . partake] Cf. xlix, 11 and Ixxxviii, 3, supra “Par- 
take” means “take part.” See 1 Hen. VI, IL iv. 100* “Your par- 
taker [t. c., partisan] Pole.” 

3-4 when 1 forgot . . . jor thy sake] when I forgot that I have interests 
of my own, in my zeal for thee, complete tyrant that thou art. 

[ 139 ] 


Who hateth thee that I do call my friend ? 

On whom frown’st thpu that I do fawn upon ? 

Nay, if thou lour’st on me, do 'I not spend 
Revenge upon myself with present moan? 

What merit do I in myself respect, 

That is so proud thy service to despise, lo 

TVhen all my best doth worship thy defect. 

Commanded by the motion of thine eyes ? 

But, love, hate on, for now I know thy mind; 
Those that can see thou Invest, and I am blind. 


O, from what power hast thou this powerful might 
With insufficiency my heart to sway ? 

To make me give the lie to my true sight. 

And swear that brightness doth not grace the day ? 
Whence hast thou this becoming of things ill. 

That in the very refuse of thy deeds 
•There is such strength and warrantise of skill. 

That, in my mind, thy worst all best exceeds ? 

For this vituperative sonnet, cf. cxxxvii, sujira. 

% With insufficiency] By dint of defect. 

5 this becoming of things iU\ this grace of rendering seemly evil things. 
See Ard. and Cleop., I, iii, 96: “my becomings, “ i. e., things that 
become me, my graces. At cxxvii, 13: becoming of [i. e., gracing] 
their woe,** a like significance attaches to the verb “become.** For 
the general sentiment cf. xl, 13, supra: “Lascivious grace, in whom 
all HI wU shows *’; and xcv, 12; also Ant. and Cleop.^ II, ii, 242- 
243 : “ vilest things Become themselves in her.** 

7 warrantise] warranty, warrant. ’ 

[ 140 ] 


Who taught thee how to make me love thee more, 

The more I hear and see just cai^se of hate ? 

O, though I love what others do abhor. 

With others thou shouldst not abhor my state: 

If thy unworthiness raised love in me, 

'More worthy I to be beloved of thee. 


Love is too young to know what conscience is ; 

Yet who knows not conscience is born of love ? 

Then, gentle cheater, urge not my amiss. 

Lest guilty of my faults thy sweet self prove : 

For, thou betraying me, I do betray 
My nobler part to my gross body’s treason ; 

My soul doth tell my body that he may 
Triumph in love; flesh stays no farther reason, 

But rising at thy name doth point out thee 
As his triumphant prize. Proud of this pride. 

He is contented thy poor drudge to be. 

To stand in thy affairs, fall by thy side. 

No want of conscience hold it that I call 
Her “love” for whose dear love I rise and fall. 


In loving thee thou know’st I am forsworn. 

But thou art twice forsworn, to me love swearing; 

In act thy bed-vow broke, and new faith torn, 

In vowing new hate after new love bearing. 

CLi, 3 my amiss] my fault; cf. xxxv, 7, supra 

CLii, 2 tvnce forsworn] The lady has not only played the poet false, but 
her husband as well 

[141 ] 


Blit why of two oaths’ breach do I accuse thee, 

When I break twenty? I am perjured most; 

For all my vows are (filths but to misuse thee. 

And all my honest faith in thee is lost: 

For I have sworn deep oaths of thy deep kindness. 
Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy; 

And, to enlighten thee, gave eyes to blindness. 

Or made them swear against the thing they see ; 

For I have sworn thee fair; more perjured I, 

To swear against the truth so foul a lie ! 


Cupid laid by his brand and fell asleep: 

A maid of Dian’s this advantage found. 

And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep 
In a cold valley-fountain of that ground ; 

Which borrow’d from this holy fire of Love 
A dateless lively heat, still to endure, 

11 io enlighten thee ... to blindness] in order to invest thee with light 
and ^auty, sacrifices my powers of vision. I deliberately shut my 
eyes, so that I might think thy ugliness beauty. 

CLiii This poem, like the one that follows, adapts an epigram in the Pala- 
tine Anthology, ix, 627, which was translated into Latin in Selecta 
Epigrammataj Basle, 1529. The Greek lines relate how Cupid while 
asleep gave his torch to the keeping of nymphs, who, thinking to put 
out its fire, plunged it into the water with the result that it heated the 
water for all time. The conceit is very common in Benaissance 
poetry. The poet's attribution of permanent curative properties to 
the fountain fired by Cupid’s torch is a late amplification of the 
Gredc epigram. Cf. Fletcher’s Lida (1593), xxvii, 11-12: “Now by 
her [i. Love’s] means it [i. e., the water] purchased hath that bliss 
Which all diseases quickly can remove.” Cf. cliv, 11-12, infra. 

6 dateless] endless, lasting; cf. xxx, 6 ^ 

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And grew a seething bath, which yet men prove 
Against strange maladies a sovereign cure. 

But at my mistress’ eye Love’s Ibrand new-fired. 

The boy for trial needs would touch my breast; lo 
I, sick withal, the help of bath desired. 

And thither hied, a sad distemper’d guest. 

But found no cure: the bath for my help lies 
Where Cupid got new fire, my mistress’ eyes. 


The little Love-god lying once asleep 
Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand. 

Whilst many nymphs that vow’d chaste life to keep 
Came tripping by; but in her maiden hand 
The fairest votary took up that fire 
Which many legions of true hearts had warm’d ; 

And so the general of hot desire 
Was sleeping by a virgin hand disarm’d. 

This brand she quenched in a cool well by. 

Which from Love’s fire took heat perpetual, 

Growing a bath and healthful remedy 
For men diseased ; but I, my mistress’ thrall, 

Came there for cure, and this by that I prove, 
Love’s fire heats water, water cools not love. 

8 Against ... a sovereign cure] Cf. Venus and Adrmis, 916: Gainst 
venomed sores the only sovereign plaster ” 

CLIV, 7 generatl commander- in-chief. 

11-12 a both . . For men diseased] Cf. cliii, 7-8, supra, 

13 this by that I prove] I draw from such facts as I have given the 
follgwing conclusion 

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